One of the common questions asked me in my practice by surviving spouses is, What debts of my deceased spouse do I have to pay?” Here are answers.
There are three specific constitutional and statutory protections which are further offered to a surviving spouse and are as follows:
The Texas Constitution continues to exempt the homestead from claims of Decedent’s creditors. The surviving spouse is given an exclusive right to occupy the homestead so long as he/she elects to do so, even if the homestead is the separate property of the deceased spouse.
Exempt personal property, including furnishings, automobiles and personal effects in an amount that does not exceed $60,000.00, may be protected from creditors of the deceased.
Family allowances may be granted in addition to the homestead and personal property exemptions. This allowance is paid out of the decedent’s property and may be established by the probate court for one year’s maintenance of the surviving spouse and, if applicable, minor children. This amount of a family allowance is set at the discretion of the probate court, but should not be allowed if the surviving spouse has a sufficient separate estate to pay those living expenses.
It should also be noted that careful notification of creditors pursuant to statute may reduce the overall debt burden by taking advantage of statutory shortening of statutes of limitations for creditors to act.
Obviously, when a spouse dies leaving a large number of debts, there can be serious consequences, but these concerns can be addressed, and many times the seriousness of the consequences can be avoided by working closely with an attorney of your choosing who is familiar with these subjects.
One of the common questions asked me in my practice by surviving spouses is, What debts of my deceased spouse do I have to pay?” I hope this post answers some of your questions.