A guy I know had a brother pass away un-expectedly, owing considerable debts and having no assets. In the ordinary course of events this would have only involved telling the lenders that the deceased had no assets and providing proof of death and some paperwork. Regrettable, but not catastrophic to the rest of the family. But their father had signed his fully paid off house (which the father lives in) over to his to sons in an attempt to make things easier when the father passed. So now it looks like they will have to take out a loan against the house and use that to satisfy the debts so the house doesn't get sold and the father evicted. Estate planning, like brain surgery, should be left to the professionals.