Am I responsible for my half sister's debts after she passed away? 36 Answers as of June 02, 2013

My father is trying to get me to renounce my rights in favor of him regarding a half sister I have not seen in twenty years; he says I will be responsible for her debts if I do not sign the papers. Is this a fact? Am I responsible for someone else's debts since she has passed away?

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Geoff Germane, Attorney at Law | Geoff Germane
You are not personally responsible for any debts unless you signed some document obligating you to answer for them. Any property you jointly own with your sister may be subject to those debts, but you personally (and your other property) would not be.
Answer Applies to: Utah
Replied: 5/10/2012
Law offices of Ron Webster | Ronald S. Webster
Unless you personally signed a guarantee for one of your sister's debts you cannot be held liable for any of her obligations. Sounds like your father is trying to pull a fast one.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 3/23/2012
Howes & Anderson, P.C.
Howes & Anderson, P.C. | Ronald Anderson
You are not responsible for your half sister's debts due to her death if you did not personally sign on the obligation.
Answer Applies to: Iowa
Replied: 3/22/2012
Elder Law Office of Mark Schaefer PC | Mark Schaefer
Under Georgia law, no, you are not responsible for any debts of your half-sister that you did not affirmatively agree to be responsible for. Did she have a will? If she did not, and she died a Georgia resident, you would probably not be an heir anyway if your father is also her father. If she had a will and you are named as a beneficiary, you have nothing to gain by renouncing your rights and you may potentially be signing away some inheritance. You should have a probate attorney review the documents your father has sent you to make sure proper procedure is being followed.
Answer Applies to: Georgia
Replied: 3/22/2012
Martinson & Beason, PC
Martinson & Beason, PC | Douglas C Martinson II
You would not be responsible for her debts unless you signed something agreeing to be responsible for them. Not sure why he would say something like that. No one would be responsible for her debts, they are debts of the estate and her estate assets would be sold to cover the debts after expenses (funeral expenses, cost of administering the estate including attorney fees, executor commissions, etc.). if there are not enough assets to cover the debts, the estate would be declared insolvent and closed with only paying a portion of the debts.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 3/22/2012
    Law Office of Matt Potempa, PLLC
    Law Office of Matt Potempa, PLLC | Matt Potempa
    You are not responsible for anyone's debts you did not authorize.
    Answer Applies to: Tennessee
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    Pingelton Law Firm | Dan Pingelton
    That's an absolute lie.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    THE HUBBARD LAW FIRM, P.C.
    THE HUBBARD LAW FIRM, P.C. | Donald B. Lawrence, Jr.
    Question: Am I responsible for my half-sister's debts after she passed away? Question Detail: My father is trying to get me to renounce my rights in favor of him regarding a half-sister I have not seen in twenty years; he says I will be responsible for her debts if I do not sign the papers. Is this a fact? Am I responsible for someone else's debts since she has passed away? Answer: No, you are not responsible for her debts. However, a creditor of hers may have rights to payment from the assets which she owned at her death. This right of payment would be subject to the right of compensation and expenses related to administering her estate through a probate process. If there is value to the assets of the estate in excess of claims for debt and the expenses of administering the estate, that balance would be divided either according to the provisions of her will after it was admitted to probate or, if she had no will, it would be divided according to the statutes of descent and distribution of the State of Michigan assuming that Michigan, at the time of her death, was her state of residence. Did this information help answer your question(s)? Details and context often affect the validity and usefulness of an answer that is based on a general statement of the law. You may need to consult directly with an attorney and provide additional information in order to get the best answer.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    Danville Law Group | Scott Jordan
    You are not responsible for your half-sister's debts if you did not co-sign for those debts.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    Lisa L. Hogreve, LC | Lisa L. Hogreve
    Your father is giving you incorrect advise. Unless you co-signed or signed a personal guarantee on the debt, you are not responsible for your half sister's debt, before or after her death. Timely filed claims of creditors will need to be paid out of the estate assets prior to making distributions to heirs, but heirs are not responsible if there is a deficiency. The only reason your father could have for wanting you to give up your rights, is if he believes there will be a positive cash flow after timely filed claims are paid. Consult an attorney. Your own attorney will look out for your interests and give you correct advise.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
    No, you are not responsible for anyone else's debts after their death, unless you take them upon yourself. It sounds like he's trying to simply pressure you with bogus threats which are baseless. Speak to an attorney about this matter if any more threats come your way.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    The Law Firm of Hayley A Silverberg, PLLC | Hayley Silverberg
    Consult an attorney before you sign anything. You would never be responsible for someone else's debt unless you cosigned on a loan. The estate would be responsible for any debt owing.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    Quitmeier Law Firm, P.C.
    Quitmeier Law Firm, P.C. | William M. Quitmeier
    You are not liable for your sister's debts unless you signed an obligation with her creditors.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    DEAN T. JENNINGS, P.C.
    DEAN T. JENNINGS, P.C. | Dean T Jennings
    No you are not. Don't sign anything without consulting with your attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Iowa
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Law Office of Robert J. Slotkin | Robert J. Slotkin
    No, you are not responsible for her debts. However, creditors of a decedent get paid ahead of beneficiaires, which means your inheritance will be less b/c the creditors get paid first.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Broad Law Firm, LLC
    Broad Law Firm, LLC | Donald K. Broad
    I am not aware of any laws in Indiana that would make you liable for your half-sister's debts, so long as you did not sign anything that would make you liable. Your half-sister's estate will be responsible for it. It sounds as if you father is trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
    Answer Applies to: Indiana
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Harville-Stein Law Offices, LLC
    Harville-Stein Law Offices, LLC | Dean D. Stein
    No. Not unless you co-signed to guarantee them during her life, or someone ( a collection agency that you should hang up on) gets you to agree to pay them now that she has passed.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Rags Beals Seigler Patterson & Gray
    Rags Beals Seigler Patterson & Gray | Ronald D. Reemsnyder
    In general you would not be responsible for your sister's debts unless you signed an agreement with the creditor either as a co- obligor or guarantor.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Law Offices of Frances Headley | Frances Headley
    Under the facts you have provided you are not responsible for her debts. The debts should be paid by her estate, including your portion of her estate. You should consult a probate attorney to review all of the facts so that you can make a decision about what is in your best interests in this situation.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Horn & Johnsen SC
    Horn & Johnsen SC | Dera L. Johnsen-Tracy
    No, you are not personally responsible for someone else's debts unless you are married to that person (or under other very unusual circumstances). Your half-sister's estate will be held responsible for her debts and, if there are any assets left over after all debts and expenses have been paid, the heirs of her estate will receive the remaining amount according to the laws of intestate distribution of the state in which she resided at the time of her death (or pursuant to the terms of her will, if she had a valid will in place).
    Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Francine R. Martin P.A.
    Francine R. Martin P.A. | Francine R. Martin
    No, you are not responsible for a decedent's debts unless you actually co-signed for the debt, or otherwise signed something saying you would be responsible for the debt. I would recommend that you retain an experienced Florida Probate attorney in this matter, and do not sign anything unless you are advised to by your attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    The Schreiber Law Firm
    The Schreiber Law Firm | Jeffrey D. Schreiber
    No you are not personally liable, but before any heir can receive an inhertiance, the estate of the deceased person must pay all taxes due and all creditor's claims and the amount remaining after that is what is to be distributed. If an heir receives money and the creditors were not paid, the creditor can come after the heir for the amount the creidtor should have received.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Speaker Law Firm
    Speaker Law Firm | Theodore Speaker
    No. Yes - you may need an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/2/2013
    Glojek Ltd | Joseph E. Redding
    Probably need more information here. As a general rule, unless you have signed a paper guaranteeing or co-signing with a person, you are not responsible for their debts upon their death. However, anything you inherit from that person is subject to their creditors claims. Thus if someone leaves you a house, and there is a mortgage, you get the house, subject to that mortgage. I would see an attorney immediately about this.
    Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Martin Barnes - Attorney at Law
    Martin Barnes - Attorney at Law | Martin Barnes
    No you are not.
    Answer Applies to: Indiana
    Replied: 6/2/2013
    Whiteford, Taylor, & Preston | Edwin Fee
    You should not be personally responsible for your sister's debts. Your sister's creditors may have a claim against her assets.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Grant Morris Dodds | Mark Dodds
    The fact that your father is trying to scare you into giving him an interest in your half-sister's estate suggests to me that there must be some reason why he wants to get control of this estate, that reason most likely being that the value of her estate exceeds the debts of her estate. There is no reasonable scenario that I can think of where it may be possible that your father is trying to do you a favor; instead, it is likely he is trying to scare you into giving up a valuable inheritance. In the first place, a person's death cannot cause you to ever be liable for the debts of the one who died unless you were already a co-signer with the decedent on a debt. Furthermore, your act of accepting or rejecting your rights in the decedent's estate will have absolutely no effect on your liability for any such debts. Since you have not seen your half-sister for 20 years, it is virtually certain that you are not a co-debtor on any of her debts, so you will incur no risk of liability in refusing to release your interest in her estate. And if it should be that the value of her estate is sufficient to cover any of your half-sister's debts, then you will be entitled to your share of the estate after those debts are paid. There are occasions where an estate is opened to pursue a claim, such as where the person was killed in an automobile accident and the estate is opened to seek a recovery for the wrongful death. However, most such claims are made through an attorney who has accepted the matter on a contingency basis, meaning that you pay the attorney a fee only if the attorney is successful in obtaining a payment on the claim, either from the person responsible for the wrongful death and/or his insurance company. In such a case, it may be necessary for you to pay a few filing fees and other court costs, but your decision on whether or not to pay any such costs can always be made after the estate has been opened and the attorney has requested that you chip in your share of the costs. If at that time you decide it is not worth it, you can always drop out and release your claim to any such settlement. But these are decisions that should be made only after you have found out what the facts are concerning your half-sister's estate. Another potential problem is that if you renounce your rights in the estate and transfer those rights to your father, the IRS could make the case that you have made a gift to your father. The proper way to renounce an interest in any estate is to sign a "Qualified Disclaimer". There are certain formal requirements to accomplish a disclaimer, two important requirements being that the disclaimer must be formally signed within nine months of your half-sister's death and another being that you cannot designate who gets your share of the estate upon making the disclaimer. It is possible that a disclaimer could result in your father getting the portion you have disclaimed, but if you have to assign the interest to him because it would not otherwise pass to him, then if there is value in the estate, you most certainly will not have made a qualified disclaimer and you will have made a gift which could have gift and estate tax consequences to you. In any event, you had better put your father on your list of people to be wary of.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    The Law Offices of Laurie E. Ohall, P.A.
    The Law Offices of Laurie E. Ohall, P.A. | Laurie E. Ohall
    You are not responsible for decedent's debts unless you agreed to be personally liable.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Gregory T. Taylor, ESQ
    Gregory T. Taylor, ESQ | Gregory Taylor
    No, as an heir you are not responsible for your sister's debts. You would be entitled to inherit money if there are any assets or cash left over after paying debts, but you are not responsible to pay her bills.
    Answer Applies to: Kentucky
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C.
    Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C. | Brian Haggerty
    If you receive property from your half sister's estate, you may be responsible for her debts to the extent of that amount you received. There are a lot of particular facts that would be needed to fully answer your question; if the amount involved is substantial, you should probably contact a lawyer and discuss this.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    THE BROOME LAW FIRM, LLC
    THE BROOME LAW FIRM, LLC | Barry D. Broome
    You have no responsibility for any debt created by another person unless you have signed to be responsible.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    The DeRose Lawfirm | Peter J. DeRose
    Yes and no. If your half-sister had debt and property, you, as an heir, are not responsible for her debt, personally. However, her estate is responsible to pay her legitimate debt. You would be a fool to "sign off on her estate." Since you have no responsibility to pay debt, what do you have to loose. If you will "be responsible to pay her debt" so would your father and every other heir. I personally believe he is trying to bluff you. Hire an experienced lawyer to represent you right now, before her assets are dissipated.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law | Charles M. Schiff
    No. You cannot be held responsible for your sister's debts. If it is her estate you refer to, her estate is responsible for her debts. You would not receive a distribution from the estate until her debts are paid.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Bullivant Houser Bailey PC
    Bullivant Houser Bailey PC | Darin Christensen
    You are not responsible for her debts although assets you would have received from her probate estate may have to be sold to satisfy her debts rather than go to you.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Blackledge Law Firm, PA | Joel Blackledge
    In Mississippi, you are generally not responsible for the debts of another unless you have taken some affirmative actions to assume those debts or unless its the debts of your child.
    Answer Applies to: Mississippi
    Replied: 3/21/2012
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