Does an unsecured debt credit card have to be paid out of estate funds?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Does an unsecured debt credit card have to be paid out of estate funds?

My uncle passed away with 32K worth of credit card debt. I have no obligation to the credit card company for the unsecured debt. They are listed as the last payee from the Register of Wills Office. I plan to offer them some form of compensation but not 32K. My question is that if there is 32K left after all of the bills are paid am I legally responsible for giving ‘my inheritance’ to the credit card company? I certainly do not wish to be sued. Thanks

Asked on March 4, 2019 under Estate Planning, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You can't be personally sued for a debt not your own (except as set out below), but yes--estate funds must be used to pay off the deceased's debts, even unsecured debts, like credit card debts. Assuming they put in a claim for the money, you'd have to pay it, or as much of it as the estate can pay, even if it wipes out your inheritance. If you don't, they could sue the estate; and if you transferred the money to yourself or otherwise "hid" or spent it, while knowing of the debt, that action (hiding or using up assets that should have been used to clear the debt) would be wrongful (it would be an act done to defraud a creditor) and that could give rise to grounds to sue you.

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