In most cases, individuals associated with an estate are not personally liable for the debts associated with that loved one’s final bills. However, there are exceptions to this. The surviving spouse, for example, is liable for debts that the couple incurred together. For example, even if the other spouse was the one who put charges onto a credit card, both spouses are responsible for that account, meaning that the surviving spouse might have to pay that bill after their partner passes away.
If the deceased spouse, however, incurred a debt alone, the survivor might not be liable. If a person co-signed for a line of credit or a loan issued to the deceased individual, that co-signer could still be held liable for the debt if the assets of the deceased individual’s estate do not cover it. This is in fact the very premise of co-signing by promising to make good on a debt even if the other person is unable to do so for any reason.
Finally, if an executor is dishonest or careless while handling estate assets and the estate suffers monetary losses as a result, the executor could be held personally liable for certain debts. If they pay the debts of the estate in the wrong order, for example, and eliminate all of the assets inside the estate leaving, none behind for someone who should have been paid first, this could leave substantial liability for that executor.
In all of these situations, it depends on the specifics of the California estate in question.
For more questions about how this process works and how you can avoid many of the most common mistakes with your own estate planning, sit down today with an estate planning lawyer.