What Happens to Bills & Debts After a Death?

When a loved one dies, there may be many loose ends. Among them: bills. What happens to a person's debt when they die?

In most cases, the deceased loved one's estate is responsible for resolving debts. This article covers some common situations, but please speak with an attorney for specific guidance related to any bills or debts your loved one may have left behind.

If you’re dealing with debt after the death of a loved one, or you’re planning ahead so your loved ones will know how to resolve your debts after your death, here are some things to consider.

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What about the bills?

After the death of a loved one, you'll need to notify the companies where your loved one had open accounts to change the billing address. A death certificate may be required before changes can be made to an account.

Utility bills

To prevent interruption of essential services, it’s important to transfer home utilities when someone dies, especially if others continue to live in the home. If the deceased loved one lived alone, you may wish to contact each company to stop service and make arrangements for the final bill, or you may transfer ownership of the accounts while details around the deceased's estate are being finalized.

Health, home and car insurance

There are different processes for canceling health insurance after a death, depending on the circumstances. You’ll need to contact the insurance agencies to transfer coverage or start new policies.

Phone bills

The question of what to do with a phone after death depends on the carrier. If the deceased loved one was the primary account holder, the process may be a little different than if someone else was the primary account holder. Contact the carrier for details.

Recurring service bills

If your loved one had recurring services, such as lawn or pool maintenance, a dog walker or grocery delivery, decide which services to keep and which to cancel. Then you can contact each service to either pay outstanding bills and cancel or continue service with new payment arrangements.


Subscriptions can include anything from meal kits to magazines to streaming video services like Netflix and YouTube. Contact each company individually to cancel the subscriptions. It can help to monitor the mail for renewals for memberships or subscriptions you may not be aware of.

Who pays the debts?

Most people leave behind some outstanding debt when they die. You should promptly contact any lender your loved one had an account with for guidance. Your attorney is the best resource for answering your questions.

Credit cards

The estate typically pays for credit card debt before money is deposited into a beneficiary's bank account. This could impact inheritance, especially if settling the debt requires selling investments or real estate. The process of canceling credit cards after death is pretty straightforward—most credit card companies need only a copy of the death certificate.

Protect your family

The best way to protect your family financially in the event of your death is to set up a will and estate plan. Many people use an estate plan online vault to securely store important information, like account logins and digital files, so their family can easily access it when it's needed. As part of your planning, it's a good idea to purchase a prepaid funeral and cemetery plan.

When you plan with a Dignity Memorial provider, your family will receive some financial relief on cemetery property if you pass away before the property is fully paid for. Our Purchase Protection Plan will help take care of a remaining balance up to $5,000. It's part of the Dignity Difference. One of our advisors can tell you more about the benefits of planning ahead and protecting your family.