As a result of a German law that makes any heirs liable for any debts, no one is making any claims on the estate of the German co-pilot who is alleged to have crashed a passenger plane into the Alps.

The estate of Andreas Lubitz has filed for bankruptcy. Lubitz was the German co-pilot now believed to have suffered from severe mental illness who allegedly flew a passenger plane into the side of a mountain, killing all 150 passengers.

His estate will undoubtedly be ordered to pay millions of dollars in compensation to the families of the people who died in the crash. These would be considered debts of his estate. Under German law anyone who claimed the assets of the estate would also be liable to pay any debts of the estate. Thus, understandably no one has made a claim for Lubitz’s estate. The executor of the estate, under the belief that the assets of the estate will be less than the debts, has as a consequence filed for bankruptcy. The Associated Press reported this story in “Germanwings co-pilot Lubitz’s estate is declared bankrupt.”

While this case is unusual both for its circumstances and the media attention it has received, it highlights a somewhat common occurrence. It is not all that unusual for an estate to have more debts than assets, especially when the deceased faces civil lawsuits. Unfortunately, what that normally means is that estate creditors do not receive full compensation as it is not the responsibility of anyone else to pay the deceased’s debts.

Reference: Associated Press (July 10, 2015) “German wings co-pilot Lubitz’s estate is declared bankrupt.”

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Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.