My uncle recently passed away. We were very close and I found out that he named me as the Executor under his Will. I would very much like to bring closure to his matters but it appears that he had more debts than assets. Many of the debts were accrued on credit cards and as much as I want to help, I don’t want to incur any personal responsibility for these debts. Help!
Initially, as I have posted in prior blogs, the Executor (or Administrator) is not personally responsible for any debts of the decedent. However, in Pennsylvania there is a “pecking order” as to what debts take priority over others. This order is as follows:
- Cost of administering his estate (attorney’s and Executor’s fees) are given priority. Good news for you.
- If a spouse, son, daughter or parents lived with him they are entitled to $3,500.00 “Family Exemption.”
- Funeral and burial expenses as well as medical expenses, including services provided under the Medical Assistance Program, incurred within six months of his death are third in priority.
- The cost of a grave marker.
- Any rents that he owed for six months prior to his death, as well as any claims for medical assistance that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania may make, which would have been incurred more than six months prior to his death.
All other claims (such as credit cards) are called “unsecured creditors” and are last in priority. This certainly doesn’t mean they don’t have to be paid, it’s just that they are subject to all of the above claims which take precedence. The unsecured creditors are paid pro rata.
My advice to you would be to see an attorney who handles estates to prioritize these claims for you to assure that you don’t incur any personal liability by paying claims out of order.