What Happens To Debt After Principal Borrower’s Death?

Death is inevitable. This means no matter what happens, regardless of the cause, we will all die eventually. This is why before that day comes, one must be able to prepare for it to avoid conflict among family members.

One of the most common questions asked is what will happen to debts in case the principal borrower dies. Upon death, does this mean the debt will be inherited by his or her heirs? Are the heirs obligated to pay off the principal’s loan?

Here’s what we know:

Debts Will Stay – Until Paid

According to Article 774 of the Civil Code of the Philippines,

“Succession is a mode of acquisition by virtue of which the property, rights, and obligations to the extent of the value of the inheritance, of a person are transmitted through his death to another or others either by his will or by operation of law.”

Consequently, Article 776 of the same law states that,

“the inheritance includes all the property rights and obligations of a person which are not extinguished by his death.”

What does this mean?

Death does not extinguish any debts or loan obligations. Unfortunately, it will remain until it is paid by the estate. Because of the rules on succession, both assets and liabilities will be passed on accordingly.

What happens to debts?

Don’t worry. When the principal borrower died, individuals or entities like banks and lending companies will NOT go after the heirs. This means the lender cannot harass any member of the family to pay off the loan obligation. The lender cannot also file a case against any family members to pay the debts.

Instead, any outstanding debt will be put against the estate, which includes assets the principal borrower owns and rightfully his up to the time of death. The lender must file a claim against the borrower’s estate that s/he owes them x amount in order to get paid.

According to Philippine laws, debts must be paid first before any assets can be distributed to the heirs. Don’t worry about the family home because the law, particularly the Family Code, Rules of Court, and Commonwealth Act No. 141 protects it against any claims as a result of unpaid debt.

What about debts with a co-maker or guarantor?

First, let’s define a co-maker. According to the BSP, co-maker is a person that promises to pay the principal borrower’s loan in case the latter is unable to do so. The amount depends on what is written in the loan contract.

There are possible scenarios:

  • If the loan contract explicitly states that the principal and co-maker are “jointly and solidarily liable” to the loan, then that means the co-maker is liable for the entire debt and the lender can go after him or her.
  • If there is a specific amount or percentage written in the loan contract, say the co-maker is liable only for 20 percent of the amount, then the co-maker can only be asked to pay up to 20 percent and the rest will be charged to the estate of the principal borrower.
  • If there is no specific provision in the loan contract, then the co-maker is only liable for half of the outstanding debt.

Regardless of the scenarios, the unpaid debts will be assumed by the co-maker, depending on what is written in the contract.

The rules are different for guarantors. Guarantor is defined as a person or organization that guarantees the loan using his or her own financial status. The guarantor’s assets will serve as a collateral and in case of death, s/he will pay off the loan first on behalf of the deceased borrower.

Thereafter, the guarantor can run after the principal borrower’s estate and demand reimbursement. S/he must make a claim as well to be able to collect from the estate.

What can you do as a principal borrower?

Surely, you don’t want to burden anyone with debt. Even if unpaid loans will not be directly charged to your living family members, it could still cause stress and anxiety on them. You don’t want them to go through court proceedings, right?

Here are tips to remember before you apply for a loan:

  • Borrow with a purpose. Don’t just borrow money for the sake of borrowing or buying material things.
  • Set aside monthly payments for the loan. This way, whatever happens, there is a dedicated fund that will pay off the debt.
  • Make timely payments. You won’t be able to incur additional expenses, too.
  • Prioritize loan payment, especially if you have additional funds.

At the end of the day, you don’t want to burden your family. Spend your money wisely and borrow responsibly.

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