What You Need to Know About Prioritizing a Dead Spouse’s Debts

When a spouse passes away, it can be an alarming discovery to realize that they have more liabilities than they did assets. Paying off these expenses can be extremely confusing for a spouse who was appointed as the personal representative of the estate. When an estate does not have appropriate assets to pay all of the debts in full, they must be prioritized. 

The first of these debts that should be paid are all funeral expenses and any of the expenses and costs associated with administration. If the funeral expenses were advanced by the surviving spouse, those can be paid back first.

Furthermore, someone who is serving in the process of probating the spouse’s estate will be able to get reimbursed for the cost of administration, like legal fees. Next in line for debts to be paid are taxes that are entitled to preference under state or federal law. Hospital expenses and reasonable medical expenses are the next in line to be paid, particularly to the point that they relate to the final illness. If there are medical bills for treatment that was not related to the final illness, that is included in the remaining category of unsecured loans and credit card bills.

Every legitimate claim in a category should be paid first, before moving on to the next category. This can be a difficult situation for a spouse to find themselves in after the loss of a loved one when the grief and other elements of moving through the claim can be especially difficult. To understand your rights and to move forward with powerful knowledge about the future, schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney.

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