FAQ: Can I file bankruptcy for a spouse or family member who has died?

ANSWER: While you can’t file bankruptcy for another person, you do have options if a deceased loved one has left behind a lot of debt.

First off, a case filed prior to death can continue even after the person’s death. So if your loved one already filed bankruptcy, their debt may already be handled, and you’ll want to speak with their attorney about it.

Secondly, you’re not always responsible for the debt loved ones leave after their death. In most states, you’re only responsible for joint debts, which are debts you’ve signed on to along with the deceased, meaning both names are on the paperwork. These sorts of debts most commonly include spouses, although sometimes parents will sign on to a debt with/for their children.

Examples might include joint mortgages, credit cards, and car ownership.

There are also community property states, where all debt taken on by a married person is automatically owned jointly by the spouse. This doesn’t include debt taken on before the marriage, like if the spouse got a student loan before getting married. (Tennessee, where I practice bankruptcy law in Memphis, is not a community property state.)

If those joint debts are too overwhelming, you may want to consider bankruptcy. This is a tough option for anyone, but especially for someone getting over a major loss. Fortunately there are some ways to make it easier, and our office does everything we can to help:

  • We offer our clients a free course on rebuilding your credit to an A rating within a year, even after a bankruptcy. You’ve been through a lot, and your credit doesn’t need to suffer forever on top of that.
  • We spend time with each client, figuring out exactly what you need and the best way forward for you and your family.
  • We put in extra effort to show we care: We offer complimentary beverages when you walk in, happily answer your phone calls and questions, and work hard to fix problems when they arise.

I know dealing with a loved one’s debt just adds frustration to tragedy, and there’s nothing enjoyable about it. But it’s my privilege to serve people who are in a tough place, and my whole team is here to help make it go smoothly for you.

If you’re considering bankruptcy or have debts you can’t pay, contact me today and let’s discuss your situation, no charge.