This Is The Surprising Amount Of Debt Americans Have When They Die


As you might have guessed, your debts don’t magically disappear when you die (if only).

New data from credit bureau Experian shows that most of us will die with some debt to our name—73 percent of consumers had some debt when they died, according to December 2016 numbers that Experian shared with Credit.com.

Just how much debt? The average was $61,554.

Of course, that number includes mortgages, which means there’s a house somewhere that can be sold to pay off that debt. When you take out mortgage debt, the average drops way down to $12,875 per person.

Getty Images | Matt Cardy
Getty Images | Matt Cardy

According to Experian’s database, of the people who had debt when they died, roughly 68 percent had credit card debt.

Here are the other types of debt that were the most common:

  • 37 percent had mortgage debt
  • 25 percent had car loans
  • 12 percent had personal loans
  • 6 percent had student loans.

The average unpaid balances were:

  • $4,531 in credit card debts
  • $17,111 in car loans
  • $14,793 in personal loans
  • $25,391 in student loans


When you die, your debt stays tied to your estate. If you have enough money or assets to pay off your debts, then your estate will pay them off first, before divvying up the rest of your money to your family members or other beneficiaries.

If there isn’t enough money to cover your debts, don’t worry—your family won’t automatically be on the hook.

Keep in mind that things may be different if you were married or if you co-signed a loan or a credit card with someone. In those instances, you will almost definitely be responsible for paying off your spouse or your co-signer’s debts when they die.

Of course, the best way to make sure that your debts don’t cause extra stress after you die is to avoid going into debt in the first place. It’s also always a good idea to write a will, which will make things crystal clear for your family members after you die. Make sure you take care of your furry, four-legged friends in your will, too.



About the Author

Sarah Kuta

Sarah Kuta is an award-winning writer and editor based in Colorado. She writes regularly about how to find deals, save money and find side gigs. Reach her at sarah@dontwasteyourmoney.com. More.

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