Denver, CO asked in Estate Planning, Family Law and Probate for Colorado

Q: Who is responsible for spousal debt after death in COlorado?

My father passed away and most of his debt is in his name only. There was no will and the only evidence I have is my mom listed as the beneficiary for both his life insurance and retirement plan. Is that money safe or can creditors take from there? What about their house, is that at stake with creditors due to debt?

2 Lawyer Answers
Michael Joseph Larranaga
Michael Joseph Larranaga pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Parker, CO
  • Licensed in Colorado

A: Allot of this really depends. If I recall, If the debt is solely in your father’s name, I would think his estate would be liable for the debt. If the debt was in both your mother and father’s name, then you mother could be jointly liable. If the debt was attached to a security interest such as the house, it is a different animal since it is secured by the house. I would think your father’s estate would play a key role in all creditor related issues. You may need to open probate if there are creditor issues.

It is impossible to tell without looking at the contracts, debt classifications, and so on. You may wish to contact an attorney to help wrap up your father’s affairs. A good estate planning attorney may help to resolve many of your issues.

Please be aware that any answer is based on all the events occurring in Colorado. Further, please be aware that this is not legal advice. This is generic information intended to help the reader develop questions to ask an attorney when they are ready. Each case is different. Anyone reading this answer in need of legal advice should contact an attorney.

John Hyland Barrett III
John Hyland Barrett III
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Louisville, CO
  • Licensed in Colorado

A: Generally, your mother is not responsible for his debts. One exception is "family purpose" debts-such a medical bills, housing, food etc. Those creditors would have to sue her to establish her liability. In terms of probate, the life insurance and retirement plan should pass according to the beneficiary designation-not via probate-so, she should get those funds without deduction for his debts. Same for the real estate assuming they held it as joint tenants (which most married couples do). His debts would need to be paid if there is a probate opened. It is possible that no probate is needed in this case. She should get a lawyer to help her with this.

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