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Can the debt collector make me pay my deceased parents' debt?


You are beginning to make funeral preparations after your father's recent passing when you start getting calls from creditors and mail from debt collectors. It seems that your parents had a significant amount of debt, and now their creditors expect the heirs to pay.

How should you react to this unpleasant and confusing situation?

You may have heard horror stories about a co-worker sued by her parents' creditors after their death, causing her to lose her inheritance. A friend might have informed you that the surviving relatives are responsible for paying the remaining debt of their deceased loved ones. Is this true? Will you have to pick up the payments on your parent's credit cards and medical bills?

The answer depends on how much of an estate your parents are leaving you and who inherits certain properties, as NerdWallet explains. After your parents' death, the executor of the estate will liquidate all or a portion of the assets to repay outstanding debt. The process works in the following manner:

  • The executor will divide any assets left over after repaying creditors amongst the beneficiaries, according to your parents' will.
  • Your father's surviving spouse or whoever inherits the house would continue making mortgage payments, or may decide to sell the home to satisfy the lender.
  • If your parents co-signed on a loan for you, the loan would continue to be your financial responsibility.

You may feel relieved to learn that although some or all of your inheritance may go to repay your parents' creditors, they can't claim you are responsible for the rest of the debt if there aren't any assets left to liquidate. If, however, your parents had a life insurance policy, debt collectors have no claim on these funds.

It may help to research your legal options if you have concerns about creditors while sorting out your late parents' estate.

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