Debts aren't written off when someone dies

Many relatives end up in a very difficult situation when a loved one dies leaving debts, especially if the death is unexpected.

At such a painful time, many people are reluctant to think about dealing with the debts of the deceased and how to make repayments.

Many people assume that the deceased's debts will be written off, but this is generally not the case and the debts continue.

Dealing with a person's assets and debts when they die

When someone passes away, a person name in the deceased's Will - called an 'executor' - or the next of kin if the deceased didn't make a Will - called an 'administrator' - will have to oversee the collection of the deceased's assets to form their estate.

Whether a Will is made or not, any outstanding debts are paid out of the estate. 

As part of their duties, the executor (or administrator) must collect in any money or property the deceased has left behind and cover and outstanding debts from the estate.

What to do if the debts can't be covered from the deceased's estate

If there are not enough assets to cover all the debts, the bills will need to be paid in order of priority, as follows:

  1. Mortgage arrears
  2. Rent due
  3. Water bills
  4. Council tax
  5. Fuel
  6. Loans
  7. Credit cards

The beneficiaries will only inherit what they have been left in the Will once all the accumulated debts have been repaid.

Who is liable for the debts?

No one else is required to pay for the debts unless they are already liable under the terms of the original agreement; for example, if the debt is in joint names or someone has signed as a guarantor.  

If the money left in the estate isn't enough to cover the outstanding debt and you jointly owned a house with the deceased person, for example, you may have too sell the property to meet creditors' demands.

What about money owed to the deceased?

It's the executor's (or administrator's) responsibility to decide in cases when there is money owed to the deceased person, especially when there is a written agreement in place.  

But if the borrower and the lender have agreed on the debt on a casual basis, it will likely remain irrecoverable since it could be impossible to prove.


Related articles


Published on: August 30, 2012

Did you like this article? Share it!

DIY Probate Kit

DIY probate category image
  • For probate in England & Wales
  • For confirmation in Scotland
  • Expert guidance manual 
  • Access to probate forms
  • Save probate fees

Read More

DIY Assist Service

DIY assist service advert
  • Simple, step-by-step online process
  • Expert guidance throughout
  • Receive completed probate and inheritance tax forms
  • Fixed price of only £295 inc VAT
Read More

Guidance on Next Steps after Death

Probate advice line advert
  • Expert guidance from probate & estate administration specialists
  • Signposting you in the right direction
  • Lines open from 9am - 7pm
  • Call freephone 0800 975 7877
Read More