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What Happens if a Debtor Dies After Filing for Bankruptcy?

When someone files for bankruptcy, their goal is usually to get rid of their debt and start fresh. But what happens if the debtor passes away before the bankruptcy case is finalized? It is important for individuals to understand the legal implications of this situation when filing for bankruptcy.

Unfortunately, the end of life is not something you can predict beforehand. For this reason, it makes sense to be prepared for any outcome. Our Bay Area bankruptcy attorney at the Law Offices of Melanie Tavare helps debtors in Oakland, Hayward, and throughout the Bay Area understand their debt relief options and protect them and their loved ones after filing for bankruptcy.

Debtor’s Estate Takes Over the Case

When a debtor dies after filing for bankruptcy, their estate takes over the case. This means that an executor or administrator will be in charge of managing the case and deciding how assets are distributed. The executor or administrator can continue with the bankruptcy case as long as they have enough funds to pay off any remaining debts. If there are not enough funds, however, then the executor or administrator can move to dismiss the case.

Income Tax Debt and State Inheritance Taxes

It’s important to note that income tax debt and state inheritance taxes cannot be discharged through bankruptcy proceedings. So even though a debtor may have passed away, these debts still must be paid in full. For example, if a debtor owed $50,000 in back taxes before passing away, then those taxes must still be paid by either their estate or beneficiaries before any other debts can be satisfied.

Debts That Can Be Discharged After Death

Fortunately, there are certain debts that can be discharged after death. These include credit card debt, medical bills, personal loans, and mortgages (in some cases). In addition, unsecured creditors such as utility companies may also forgive any outstanding balances due after a debtor has passed away.

If your loved one passed away after filing for bankruptcy and you wonder which types of debts can be discharged after death, consult with a skilled bankruptcy attorney to discuss your unique case.

Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

When a debtor dies after filing for bankruptcy, it is important for individuals to understand how this affects their debt obligations so they can make sure all legal requirements are met before moving forward with their own financial situation.

Under Rule 1016 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, the debtor’s death or incompetency does not abate a liquidation case under Chapter 7 bankruptcy. As for Chapter 13 bankruptcies, the Rule states that while the bankruptcy case can be dismissed, it may also proceed until it concludes if further administration is possible and doing so is in the best interest of the parties.

Discuss Your Case with a Bankruptcy Attorney

By understanding what happens if a debtor dies after filing for bankruptcy and taking appropriate action on behalf of the deceased’s estate or beneficiaries accordingly, individuals will ensure that all debts are properly handled in accordance with the law. Consult with our bankruptcy attorney at the Law Offices of Melanie Tavare to learn more about the impact of the debtor’s death on their bankruptcy case. Call 510-255-4646 to get a free case review. 

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"Melanie is the best she very responsive and helpful throughout the process everything was taken care of smoothly. If you are thinking of going through bankruptcy she is the best attorney for you. I will forever be grateful having the chance to work with her. She is very honest too."


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"Choosing to work with Atty. Melanie has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. She was a very patient professional to work with and attentive while providing valuable solutions to all of my concerns. If you are searching for of an Attorney who is knowledgeable, transparent, and diligent - well that's Atty. Melanie."


"What I liked about working with Melanie was how prompt and easy to work with she was. She made the process clear and understandable with as little stress as possible. I would work with her again and recommend her to others."