When you parents pass on, there are a lot of emotions to contend with on top of the pressing financial issues of your parent’s estate, particularly if there is not a will. One of the chief concerns of many children is paying off payday loans or the debts incurred by a parent. Many people fear that such outstanding debts will become their own burden.
So what exactly is a child of a deceased parent responsible for as far as debt?
The only time a person is responsible for another person’s debt occurs when the debt was incurred due to a joint account (if you and your parent had a joint credit card) or when a child is the co-signer on a loan taken by a parent. Unless the situation involves either of the above-mentioned terms, you are not responsible for paying debts. Instead what will occur is after the funeral expenses have been paid, any creditors of outstanding accounts will be the next to receive remaining money of the estate. Your inherited portion of your parent’s estate will be whatever monies are remaining after those creditors have been paid.
If there is not enough money in the estate to cover outstanding debts, the estate must be divided up equally with priority going to creditors of secured debts. Creditors must eat the loss of the remaining balance but children of the deceased are not personally responsible for paying the remaining debts.
Unfortunately, many creditors or debt collectors will try to convince you otherwise that you are in fact responsible for your parent’s outstanding debts. However, since it is not true, your best course of action is to refer all collection calls on your parent’s behalf to the attorney or executor of your parent’s estate. You can explain the situation of your parent’s passing and if the creditors or collectors continue to harass you to collect on the debts, write a letter informing them of the situation and tell them to stop contacting you. If all else fails, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office in your state.
As the loss of a parent is monumental, it is very important that you speak with your parent about their finances well before they become ill or incapacitated. Helping your parent to get their financial affairs in order now, will ease their minds and make life not so difficult after they pass on. Too many times, children of elderly parents do not take the steps to ensure their parents are keeping tabs on the finances as they age, leaving children with a financial nightmare to clean up later. Take the time to help your parents get organized now, while they are still in good health.