Am I Responsible for My Deceased Spouse’s Debt?

  • Estate Planning
  • Illinois Probate Law
  • Wills
Illinois Probate Law: Am I Responsible for My Deceased Spouse’s Debt? | Mario Godoy | Chicago Estate & Probate Lawyer

In Illinois, the deceased person’s family is not responsible for their debt – but their estate is. If your spouse dies and is in debt, and you did not co-sign for this debt, debt collectors are not allowed to call you to demand payment. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) says, 

“family members typically are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets. What’s more, family members – and all consumers – are protected by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to try to collect a debt.”

If you are being harassed for your deceased spouse’s debt by debt collectors, you can request they not contact you, and if you feel the FDCPA is being violated, you can sue the debt collection company and the individual debt collector for damages and attorney fees.

Illinois Family Expense Act

The Family Expense Act is an exception to spousal debt inheritance. A spouse is liable for their deceased spouse’s debts if a debt is for a family expense, such as: 

  • Medical bills
  • Funeral expenses
  • Clothing
  • Jewelry
  • Rent for the family home
  • Repairs for the family home
  • Wages for a domestic servant

Even if only one spouse purchased the family expense, the law presumes that both spouses agree to pay for a family expense. Illinois law does not specifically define what constitutes a family expense, and an experienced attorney can help with your deceased spouse’s estate.

If You Are Executor of Your Spouse’s Will

If you are the legal executor of your spouse’s will, and your spouse died with debt, then you must comply with probate laws and are legally responsible for resolving the estate debt. 

The Estate’s Debt Will Impact the Heirs

Even though you are not personally responsible for your spouse’s debt when they die, the estate is. The estate cannot be closed and all the assets cannot be distributed until after all the debt is paid. If you are making a will, and estates and probate lawyer can help provide ways for your beneficiaries to be taken care of after your death. If you are a beneficiary to an estate with considerable debt, a probate attorney can help you settle the estate and work with the executor to protect your inherited assets.

If you are planning your will or your spouse has died and you are concerned about your rights and inheritance, an experienced probate and estates lawyer can advise you throughout the process. To talk to a probate, trust and estates attorney in Chicago or Lombard about how to make and store your will, contact the Estate & Probate Legal Group at 630-864-5835.