How are the debts of a deceased paid?

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2014

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How are the debts of a deceased paid?

My common law husband died 3 years ago. Prior to his death, a friend of his loaned him $26,000 so he could keep his shares in a business. The Will states that the money will be paid back to him with each distribution of the dividends paid out. The Will has already gone through probate. After his death, the business began to fail and no dividends were ever paid out to the shareholders. The business has now sold for next to nothing. The exact amount that I will receive is $25,000. This friend of his wants that money to go to him. I need this money. Am I obligated to give it to him?

Asked on September 15, 2014 under Estate Planning, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

First, your state does not recognize common law marriage, so you are not considered a spouse for a number of purposes, including any liability for the deceased's debts. Second, while you should have an attorney review the exact language of the will, if it does state that the loan should be repaid with payments of the dividends, but no dividents were ever paid out, then there would seem to be entitlement to repayment--that is, the condition set in the will for payment has not been met. Third, if the borrower/debtor was the decedent, the lender/creditor could possibly have tried to recover the loan from the estate prior to it being fully probated--but he cannot seek it after probate and the estate being fully wound up. From what you write, it does not appear the lender has recourse against you, though you are advised to consult in person with an attorney about the situtuation in detail to be sure; bring a copy of the will, any promissory note, and any other relevant documents.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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