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Can you be responsible for a deceased parent’s debts?

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2020 | Probate

Losing a parent is tremendously difficult at any stage of life. While you may struggle with the emotional repercussions associated with losing your mother or father, you may, too, have to deal with financial ramifications. If your mother or father passed and left outstanding debts behind and did not have enough in his or her estate to cover those debts, you may wonder whether you are responsible for them. 

If you listen to debt collectors who may call on you after your parent’s passing, you may get the impression that it is, in fact, your responsibility to pay off your parent’s debts. Is this actually true, though, or are those debt collectors simply trying to make you falsely believe that you have an ethical duty to cover them? 

Understanding your obligations 

Unless your situation meets very specific parameters, it may benefit you to know that you most likely do not have to come up with the money to cover any debts a deceased parent leaves behind. If your parent has enough in his or her estate to cover those outstanding debts, then debt collectors are typically able to get what they demand directly from that estate. Otherwise, those bill collectors may simply find themselves out of luck. 

Instances where you may be responsible 

In most cases, you are not going to be on the hook for the debts your parent could not pay off before passing. There are a few exceptions, though. If you and your parent applied for a loan together, then you may wind up being responsible for paying it off after your parent’s death. Similarly, if a credit account has both your names on it and that account is now in arrears, it may be your responsibility to pay it off. 

When dealing with debt collectors following a parent’s death, make sure to carefully track all communications you have with them while taking meticulous notes about what you discuss. 

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