As the executor of an estate, it is your job to carry out the last wishes of the testator as enshrined in their estate plan. However, before you begin the process of passing out assets to beneficiaries and family members, you will first have to fulfill the financial obligations that the testator left behind.

Repaying debts and paying taxes is a critical part of what an executor does. What debts do you have an obligation to repay as part of the estate administration process?

You usually don’t have personal liability for the debt, but the estate does

Unless you or one of the beneficiaries from the estate is a cosigner for one of the debts left behind, the estate is the only one with liability for those debts. That means that neither you nor family members of the deceased have to pay the balance of their credit card if they don’t leave behind enough assets to cover those expenses final bills.

However, you do have an obligation to repay all debts that a testator leaves behind, regardless of whether they are credit cards, medical debts or personal debts. If they don’t have enough liquid capital to cover those debts, you will have to liquidate their other assets to repay creditors. If you fail to do so and distribute assets to beneficiaries of the estate, that could be a situation in which you have personal liability for those unpaid debts.

Even in the circumstance where there is nothing left from the estate after the debts get paid, you must handle them first before distributing anything to family members and heirs. Getting help as an executor can reduce your risk of making mistakes that could lead to liability for you.