Don’t assume the survivors of the deceased are responsible for his debts. Contact a lawyer if a collection agency approaches you claiming just that. Debts are to be paid by the estate. If there are not enough funds to cover the debts then the collectors usually have to write it off. However, if a spouse was a joint owner of the account or co-signer on the debt, then they are generally liable. Battling collectors can be a costly process, so brush up on the rules to avoid unnecessary headaches.