What Is the Illinois Family Expense Act?

  • Illinois Probate Law
What Is the Illinois Family Expense Act?

What happens if your spouse dies and leaves debts behind – are you responsible for your deceased spouse’s debts? If your spouse dies and is in debt, and you are not a co-signer for this debt, in Illinois debt collectors are not allowed to call you to demand payment. In Illinois, a deceased person’s family is not responsible for their debt – but the deceased’s estate is. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act puts limits on third-party debt collectors who are attempting to collect debts on behalf of their clients, and says: “family members typically are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets.” The Illinois Family Expense Act is an exception and clarifies the spousal debt laws in Illinois. 

The Illinois Family Expense Act Exception

The Illinois Family Expense Act makes a person liable for the expenses of their family. Family is defined as a spouse and dependent children and does not include parents. A spouse is liable for their deceased spouse’s debts if the 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, Illinois 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 there are debt issues. 

If Your Spouse Died With Debt 
If your spouse died and has personal, business and other non-family debts, you are not legally liable for your deceased spouse’s debts. However, the debt may need to be paid from your spouse’s estate before you or other heirs receive an inheritance. If the estate cannot cover your spouse’s debts, you are not responsible to pay the debt.

Your spouse’s estate cannot be closed and all the assets cannot be distributed until after all the debt is paid. 

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 Illinois probate laws and are legally responsible for resolving the estate debt. 

DuPage County Estate Planning Attorney

If 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 your spousal rights, contact the Estate & Probate Legal Group at 630-864-5835.