Debts After Death: A Comprehensive Conversation on Managing Debts After Passing in Wisconsin

Pay Debts after Death in Wisconsin

Debts After Death: A Comprehensive Conversation on Managing Debts After Passing in Wisconsin

As you embark on your estate planning journey, it’s vital to address not only your assets but also your debts. Debt is a common part of life, and many individuals may still carry unpaid debts when they pass away. For numerous Americans, credit card debt is one of the most prevalent forms of debt they hold which are debts after death that will need to be dealt with.

Credit card debt should be a consideration when crafting your estate plan, especially if you consistently maintain a balance on your credit cards rather than paying them off in full each month. In such cases, it’s essential to acknowledge that your spouse or estate will bear the responsibility of settling your credit card debts after death.

Debts after Death: Credit Card Debt under Wisconsin Law

In Wisconsin, credit card debt is managed somewhat differently in estate planning than in many other states. Wisconsin operates as a “community property” or “marital property” state. This legal framework means that any assets acquired or debts incurred during a marriage, including credit card debt, are the joint responsibility of both spouses. However, there are nuances to consider. If a credit card is solely held in the name of one spouse, the debt associated with that card may not automatically transfer to the surviving spouse as debts after death.

Debts after Death: Settling an Estate with Credit Card Debt

When an individual passes away, their credit card debt does not vanish magically. If the credit card account was solely in the name of the deceased, the debt must be addressed and settled from their estate. The executor of the estate plays a crucial role in this process, which typically involves the following steps:

  1. Notification of Creditors: The executor must inform the deceased’s creditors of their passing, providing the necessary documentation.
  2. Asset Inventory: A comprehensive inventory of all assets owned by the deceased must be conducted.
  3. Asset Valuation: The total value of the assets is determined, along with the assessment of the validity of the credit card debt.
  4. Debt Settlement: Only after these initial steps should the executor proceed to pay down the credit card debt. It is imperative not to automatically pay off the debt without going through these critical stages.

If the aggregate credit card debt surpasses the total value of the deceased’s estate, any remaining balance after the estate has made all possible payments will generally be forgiven. If a credit card company attempts to pursue a spouse or family member for debt repayment, immediate legal counsel should be sought.

An essential caveat to remember is that certain assets, such as insurance proceeds, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and IRA accounts, are typically not considered assets that can be used to settle credit card debt. These accounts usually pass directly to their designated beneficiaries without being factored into the estate’s total asset value for debt repayment.

Credit card Debts after Death in Wisconsin

Debts after Death: What You Can Do Now

To alleviate the burden your family may experience after your passing, proactive planning regarding the handling of your credit card debt is crucial. Ideally, paying down your credit card debt as much as possible is the best course of action. However, this may not always be feasible for everyone.

Regardless of your financial situation, it is advisable to maintain thorough documentation of all your credit card accounts and debts. This documentation should encompass essential details, including:

  • Credit card account numbers
  • Usernames and passwords to access these accounts
  • Contact information for the respective bank or credit card company
  • Any other pertinent information related to your credit card accounts

Store this documentation in a secure location inaccessible to individuals with malicious intent. This may include entrusting it to your estate planning attorney or the person designated as the executor of your estate.

Debts after Death: What Debts are Forgiven When You Die in Wisconsin?

Accumulating debts is a common part of life, and some of these debts may remain unpaid after an individual passes away. The forgiveness of debts upon death in Wisconsin depends on various factors, including the type of debt and the presence of heirs.

Type of Debts after Death

Different categories of debt are treated differently following a person’s death. Marital debt, for instance, is generally considered shared debt when incurred during a marriage, making both spouses responsible. Even if one spouse passes away, the remaining partner remains responsible for marital debt. Similarly, if a loan was co-signed, the co-signer remains liable for the debt, even after the borrower’s death.

Let’s delve into specific types of debt:

  • Mortgage: If there’s a co-signer on the mortgage, they are still responsible for the loan in the event of the primary borrower’s death. If the mortgage is solely in the name of the deceased, the loan does not necessarily have to be repaid. However, the bank retains the right to reclaim the property due to non-payment. If heirs wish to retain or sell the property, they must settle the remaining loan amount, often through the proceeds from the deceased’s estate.
  • Car Loan: A car loan solely in the name of the deceased is not obligatory to repay. However, the financial institution can repossess the vehicle if the loan goes unpaid. Heirs who intend to keep or sell the car must clear the loan first. If the car loan involves a co-signer, that co-signer remains responsible for the loan payments.
  • Medical Debt: Medical bills persist after an individual’s demise. Typically, medical debts do not involve co-signers, so they become part of the estate’s responsibilities. The estate is responsible for settling medical debts, along with other outstanding debts. Hospitals and medical facilities may take legal action to recover these debts from the estate. Heirs may use estate proceeds to cover these bills.
  • Credit Card Debt: Credit card debt is treated similarly to medical debt. If a credit card is solely in the name of the deceased, the estate is responsible for repaying the debt. Failure to pay may prompt the credit card company to take legal action against the estate. If the debt remains unpaid, the company may attempt to collect it from the estate.
  • Student Loans: Federal student loans are an exception in that they are generally forgiven upon the borrower’s death in Wisconsin. However, family members must provide proof of the borrower’s death to secure a discharge of the student loan debt. This does not apply to private student loans, which typically remain the responsibility of the estate. If a private student loan has a co-signer, that co-signer becomes responsible for repayment.

External Resources for Estate Planning for Debts after Death

For a more in-depth understanding of the estate planning process and related considerations, we recommend exploring the following external resources:

  1. Family Estate Planning in Wisconsin (UW Law School): Access this free resource to gain insights into estate planning in Wisconsin. Family Estate Planning in Wisconsin
  2. State Bar of Wisconsin – Estate Planning: Explore the State Bar of Wisconsin’s estate planning resources to further enhance your knowledge. Estate Planning – State Bar of Wisconsin

Contact Dahlberg Law Group for Expert Guidance on Debts after Death in Wisconsin

Navigating the complexities of estate planning, especially when addressing debts after death, requires careful consideration and professional guidance. At Dahlberg Law Group, we understand the importance of comprehensive estate planning and the peace of mind it can bring to you and your loved ones.

For personalized assistance and to ensure that your estate plan effectively addresses all your financial obligations, including credit card debt, we encourage you to contact us. Milwaukee Estate Planning Lawyer Steve Eichstaedt and our team are here to provide expert advice and support in crafting a well-rounded estate plan.

Please reach out to us at (262) 677-8999 to schedule a consultation. Your financial well-being and the security of your family’s future are our top priorities.

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At Dahlberg Law Group, we’re dedicated to helping you navigate the intricacies of estate planning, ensuring that your loved ones are safeguarded and your wishes are honored.