If you've got debt and die tomorrow, don't assume it will disappear. Chances are, it will eat into the assets you may be planning to leave your heirs and may even wipe out your estate.
Estate and financial planners say it's an increasingly common scenario, largely because older Americans are taking on and carrying more debt. In fact, middle-income Americans age 50 and older are now carrying more credit card debt on average than younger people, according to a report released in January by Demos, a New York-based policy research organization. That's a reversal of the firm's findings from 2008. According to the report, older households carried an average credit card balance of $8,278 in 2012, compared with $6,258 for those under 50. That doesn't include underwater mortgages, home equity lines, auto loans and other liabilities they may be carrying.