When someone dies, their creditors live on.​ But that doesn't necessarily mean that you have to pay them.

After the death of a loved one, family members are often concerned and confused about how to pay the decedent's creditors. Thankfully, although you can inherit a decedent's property, you cannot also inherit their unsecured debts. But that doesn't stop the debt collectors from trying.

When a Massachusetts resident dies, their creditors have one year from the date of death to perfect a claim against the estate. Perfecting their claim involves filing it in the court with jurisdiction over such claims, and also filing a notice of the claim with the Probate and Family Court. If they fail to do so, then the Personal Representative is not required to pay the claim.​

This process is confusing to clients, but it is also confusing to creditors, who often run afoul of these rules. It is important to know which debts have been perfected, so that you do not pay invalid claims.

However, some debts and expenses should be paid promptly, such as funeral expenses, expenses related to the final sickness and death, estate administration expenses and attorney fees, and state and federal taxes. It is also important to note that secured debts, such as mortgages and car loans, remain attached to their underlying asset.


We're glad that you're using this website to educate yourself about these important issues. While it may seem daunting, the most important step is as simple as a phone call or email.


The Law Office of David E. Peterson


Beverly Office

86 Dodge Street
Beverly, MA 01923

Burlington Office

2 Burlington Woods Drive, Suite 100
Burlington, MA 01803