Death & Taxes… And Debt
Nothing in this world is certain, except death and taxes… and $62,000 debt.
According to December 2016 data provided to Credit.com by credit bureau Experian, 73% of consumers had outstanding debt when they were reported as dead.
Those consumers carried an average total balance of $61,554, including mortgage debt. Without home loans, the average balance was $12,875. Among the 73% of consumers who had debt when they died, about 68% had credit card balances.
The next most common kind of debt was mortgage debt (37%), followed by auto loans (25%), personal loans (12%) and student loans (6%). These were the average unpaid balances: credit cards, $4,531; auto loans, $17,111; personal loans, $14,793; and student loans, $25,391.
That’s a lot of debt, and, as Fox Business reports, it doesn’t just disappear when someone dies.
For the most part, your debt dies with you, but that doesn’t mean it won’t affect the people you leave behind.
“Debt belongs to the deceased person or that person’s estate,” said Darra L. Rayndon, an estate planning attorney with Clark Hill in Scottsdale, Arizona. If someone has enough assets to cover their debts, the creditors get paid, and beneficiaries receive whatever remains. But if there aren’t enough assets to satisfy debts, creditors lose out (they may get some, but not all, of what they’re owed). Family members do not then become responsible for the debt, as some people worry they might.
That’s the general idea, but things are not always that straightforward. The type of debt you have, where you live and the value of your estate significantly affects the complexity of the situation. (For example, federal student loan debt Opens a New Window. is eligible for cancellation upon a borrower’s death, but private student loan companies tend not to offer the same benefit. They can go after the borrower’s estate for payment.)
There are lots of ways things can get messy. Say your only asset is a home other people live in. That asset must be used to satisfy debts, whether it’s the mortgage on that home or a lot of credit card debt, meaning the people who live there may have to take over the mortgage, or your family may need to sell the home in order to pay creditors. Accounts with co-signers or co-applicants can also result in the debt falling on someone else’s shoulders. Community property states, where spouses share ownership of property, also handle debts acquired during a marriage a little differently.
The bottom line – even after you’re dead, debt servitude is stil an anchor around your neck.