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Debt priority in probate
Can The Deceased Person’s Debts Be Paid From Their Estate During Probate?

Debt Settlement in Florida Probate

Managing the financial affairs of a deceased loved one can be a complex and emotionally challenging task. One significant aspect to consider is how the deceased individual’s debts are addressed during the probate process in Florida.

Probate is the legal procedure through which the assets of a deceased person are distributed and their final financial matters are resolved. Questions often arise regarding whether the decedent’s debts must be paid from their estate and the procedures involved. In this article, we will delve into the essential aspects of handling debts during probate in Florida.

Understanding Probate in Florida

Before we explore the specifics of debt settlement, it is crucial to have a solid grasp of the probate process in Florida. Probate serves multiple vital purposes, including:

  • Validating the deceased person’s will, if one exists.
  • Identifying and cataloging the decedent’s assets and liabilities.
  • Appointing a personal representative or executor to oversee the estate.
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries or heirs as per the will or state laws.
  • Resolving any disputes or claims against the estate.

Now, let’s focus on the handling of debts during the probate process.

Debt Settlement Priority

Not all debts are treated equally during probate in Florida. The state has established a specific order of priority for settling debts from the estate of the deceased individual. Here’s an overview of how debt settlement priorities typically work:

  1. Secured Debts: These debts are backed by collateral, such as mortgages or car loans. Settling secured debts may be necessary to prevent the loss of collateral. Beneficiaries may have the option to assume these debts if they wish to retain the property.
  2. Funeral Expenses: The cost of the deceased person’s funeral and burial typically takes precedence and is settled before other debts.
  3. Medical Expenses of the Last 60 Days: Medical bills incurred in the final 60 days of the decedent’s life are generally given priority in debt settlement.
  4. Debts and Taxes: Other debts, including credit card debt and personal loans, follow secured debts, funeral expenses, and medical bills in terms of priority. Additionally, any federal or state taxes owed by the decedent or the estate must be addressed.
  5. Unsecured Debts: These debts, such as credit card debt and personal loans, are typically settled after higher-priority debts. If the estate’s assets are insufficient to cover unsecured debts, they may remain unpaid.

It is essential to note that not all assets are subject to probate. Certain assets, such as life insurance proceeds with designated beneficiaries or assets held in a living trust, bypass probate and are generally not used to settle the decedent’s debts.

Assets for Debt Settlement

The assets used to settle the decedent’s debts are typically sourced from the estate itself. The personal representative or executor is responsible for identifying and liquidating assets, if necessary, to cover outstanding debts. This may involve selling real estate, personal property, or other assets, depending on the financial circumstances of the estate.

The personal representative must adhere to the legal requirements and priorities set forth by Florida law when managing debt settlements. Failure to do so may lead to legal complications and disputes.

Protection for Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries and heirs of the estate are generally shielded from personal responsibility for the decedent’s debts. Florida law typically protects them from having to use their own assets to satisfy the decedent’s obligations. Nevertheless, beneficiaries should be aware of how debt settlements may impact their inheritances.

If the estate lacks sufficient assets to cover all debts, beneficiaries may receive smaller inheritances than originally anticipated. It is advisable for beneficiaries to stay informed about the probate process and consult with an experienced probate attorney if they have concerns or questions about asset distribution.

Consulting with a Probate Attorney

Probate can be a complex legal procedure with various considerations, particularly when it comes to debt settlement. Personal representatives and beneficiaries alike may benefit from consulting with a knowledgeable probate attorney in Miami.

Experienced probate attorneys can provide guidance on navigating the probate process, understanding debt priorities, and ensuring compliance with Florida law. They can also assist in resolving any disputes or challenges that may arise during probate.


In Florida, the payment of a deceased person’s debts is an integral part of the probate process. Debts are generally paid from the assets of the estate, following a specific order of priority established by state law. Beneficiaries are typically not personally responsible for these debts but may be affected by the distribution of assets.

For personalized guidance and legal assistance in handling debt repayment during probate in Miami, contact Morgan Legal Group today.