Are you legally responsible for a deceased parent’s debts?

Losing a parent is often tremendously difficult. In addition to dealing with the loss of someone very important to you, you may also have the responsibility of figuring out what to do with your parent’s estate, which might include paying debt and otherwise tying up loose ends. 

While some people inherit money once their parents pass on, others find that their parents leave them with substantial piles of debt after death. If you find yourself falling into the latter category, you may be wondering whether you are financially responsible for covering those debts left behind

The truth 

If your mother or father passed away and left substantial credit card or other debt behind, you may start fielding calls from creditors who tell you that you have an obligation to make good on your parent’s debts. Do you actually have such an obligation, though? The good news is, in most cases, you are probably not going to be legally responsible for paying off a deceased parent’s debts. There are, however, two key exceptions to the rules. 

Important exceptions 

If you and your mom or dad applied for, say, a credit card together and that card still has a balance remaining once one or both of your parents pass on, you may be legally responsible for covering that balance. Similarly, if your parent applied for a loan and you served as a co-signer on that loan, you may be on the hook for paying it off after your mother or father’s passing. 

If your parent dies with enough assets in his or her estate to cover outstanding debts, the value of the assets remaining may go toward doing so. Otherwise, unless you co-signed on a loan or applied for credit together with your deceased parent, you are probably not going to be legally responsible for those outstanding debts, regardless of what debt collectors may tell you. 

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