You’re writing a will and adding up all your assets. While taking a look at the financial details, you realize just how much you have in debt. Do you need to put those debts into your will or any other part of your estate plan?

You do not. The debt does not pass to your heirs. They don’t have to pay it — unless, of course, they co-signed on a loan or something of that nature — so you do not have to write out how the payments should be made.

That may leave you wondering what happens to the debt. It’s a fair question. First off, many debts get paid out of your estate. Say you have $200,000 to leave to your heirs and $20,000 in outstanding credit card debt. Your heirs are actually only going to get $180,000. The $20,000 gets paid off in advance and then the rest goes to them. Many small debts are taken care of this way.

For something on which you’re making outstanding payments, like a mortgage, your children may be able to take over the mortgage if they want to keep the house. If they don’t, they can sell it and use the money — also part of your estate — to pay the balance. The remaining money then passes to them with the rest of the estate.

What if you have more debt than assets? This does happen. Your creditors may get some payments from what you do have in your estate, but the rest of the debt is erased when you pass away. Again, your children don’t get it.

When estate planning gets complex, be sure you know what steps to take.