Debts you leave behind

Unsettled debts

Everything you leave when you die is called your estate. This is made up of everything you own, minus everything you owe. This includes money, property and belongings. It also includes your share of anything you own jointly with someone else.

Debts can reduce the size of your estate. This means that the people who inherit your money and possessions (your beneficiaries) receive less. If your debts amount to more than the value of everything you own, there will be nothing left for your beneficiaries. But these debts are cancelled and your beneficiaries won’t have to pay them.

There are some exceptions to the situation described above.

Student loans

These are automatically cancelled on death and do not reduce the size of your estate.

Borrowing covered by life insurance

If a loan is secured against your home, the home would normally be sold to raise the money to repay the loan. But if you had taken out life insurance along with the loan, the life policy will pay it off instead without any sale of the home. Similarly, if you had taken out life insurance with any other loan, the loan will be automatically repaid.

Joint borrowing

If you took out a loan jointly with someone else, you are both responsible for the whole loan. In the event of your death, your joint borrower must take over making the full repayments (unless life insurance has repaid the loan).

We have more information about sorting out an estate.

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Back to Managing debt and borrowing

Debt and borrowing overview

Living with cancer can bring extra expenses. Learn how to manage your debts using a clear step-by-step process.

Step 1: increase your income

Increasing your income is the first step to managing your debts. Check your entitlement to benefits and insurance payouts.


If you can’t pay back your non-priority debts in a reasonable time, speak to a debt advice agency straight away.