May 31, 2011

Am I responsible for my deceased parent's debts?

It is not uncommon for a decedent's creditors to contact the person's adult children. The caller will request that the child pay the parent's outstanding debts. Often the debts are medical bills. These calls are understandably unnerving for a child who is coping emotionally with the death of a parent.

So is a child responsible for his deceased parent's unpaid bills? Unless you have signed as a guarantor, the answer is generally no. It is the decedent's estate that is responsible for paying debts. If you are contacted by a creditor or collection agency regarding your late parent's debts, refer them to the personal representative or trustee for the estate, whose job it is to pay valid debts from the funds of the estate. If there are insufficient funds to pay debts, it generally goes unpaid. The children are not on the hook.

I warn the children of my deceased clients to not give callers of this nature any personal information. Many scam artists check the death notices and then contact the decedent's children, hoping to gain access to personal information which is then used fraudulently.

If you continue to be bothered by your late parent's creditors, write a letter to them requesting that they refrain from contacting you in the future. If you continue to have problems, contact your state's attorney general. To access the online complaint form of the Florida Attorney General's Office, click here

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