Am I responsible for the bills that belonged to my deceased mother? 20 Answers as of January 27, 2012

My mother recently passed away and has no assets, trust or will. Are her children responsible for her bills (medical, ambulance, credit card)? I have only notified her creditors of her death and she has received bills from creditor that have turned it over to legal departments and probate departments. She also has a large nursing home bill and her medical was pending when she passed away so I dont know how to proceed with that. Also we have one joint account that I paid her bills through and there is nothing left in that account.

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Fears & Nachawati | Andrea Perez
You are not personally responsible for your Mother's debts unless you agreed to be responsible (joint account, join credit card, co-signer or personal guarantee). Also, if your Mother has any assets to inherit, her bills and other debts will need to be paid first before the assets can be distributed. This is a procedure that is monitored and must be filed with your local Probate Court.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 1/27/2012
Geoff Germane, Attorney at Law | Geoff Germane
No, the children are not generally responsible for the debts of a deceased parent. If the child was a co-debtor, the child may have his or her own liability.
Answer Applies to: Utah
Replied: 1/27/2012
North Sound Law, PS
North Sound Law, PS | Spencer Bergstedt
No. You are not responsible for your mother's debts. Creditors and collection agencies often pressure family members into paying the debts of a decedent, but you have no legal responsibility for those debts. Your mother's estate has the obligation. In most cases it is the best course of action to be able to settle her estate properly is to file a probate case. Probate not only deals with the proper distribution of a decedent's assets, it also settles all debt obligations of the decedent as well. Meeting with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your mother's estate and how best to proceed would be well worth any consultation fee you would pay.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 1/27/2012
Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law
Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law | Charles M. Schiff
No, you are not responsible for your mother's bills unless you signed something agreeing to be responsible.
Answer Applies to: Minnesota
Replied: 1/27/2012
Goldsmith & Guymon
Goldsmith & Guymon | Dara Goldsmith
If you signed as a responsible person on her accounts then you could be. If you received assets from her you could be responsible up to the value of the assets that you recently received. If the answer to both of those questions is "no," the you cannot be held responsible. If you answered "yes" to either or both, you should seek legal counsel.
Answer Applies to: Nevada
Replied: 1/27/2012
    Bullivant Houser Bailey PC
    Bullivant Houser Bailey PC | Darin Christensen
    Her children are not directly responsible for your mother's debts. To the extent that you received assets as a result of her passing, creditors might be able to force you to pay. Even though you have no direct liability, in some cases the creditors will try to convince you to pay; don't without consulting first with a probate lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 1/27/2012
    Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C.
    Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C. | Brian Haggerty
    If you were helping your mom with her finances, it is possible that your actions could make you liable. In general, though, you are not responsible for the debts of a parent.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 1/27/2012
    The Law Offices of Laurie E. Ohall, P.A.
    The Law Offices of Laurie E. Ohall, P.A. | Laurie E. Ohall
    In Florida, neither a spouse nor the decedent's children can be held personally liable for the debts of the decedent, so long as the spouse or children did not sign a document accepting personal responsibility.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 1/27/2012
    DEAN T. JENNINGS, P.C. | Dean T Jennings
    No. Do not make any payments that could be interpreted as your taking responsibility. You nor your family members are not responsible to pay the bills, unless you signed something personally saying you would pay. Ignore the creditors other than to tell them she is deceased with no assets.
    Answer Applies to: Iowa
    Replied: 1/27/2012
    Horn & Johnsen SC
    Horn & Johnsen SC | Dera L. Johnsen-Tracy
    Your mother's estate is responsible for paying her debts. If there are insufficient assets in her estate to pay all of her debts, unless the debt is joint such as a co-signed loan, you have no personal obligation to pay for your mother's debts. Some creditors and collection agencies will imply that you as a relative have a legal obligation to pay; however, this is a collection tactic and is simply untrue. Where the estate is insolvent, Wisconsin Statutes section 859.25 specifies the priority in which debts and expenses are to be applied: 1. Costs and expenses of administering the estate. 2. Reasonable funeral and burial expenses. 3. Provisions for the family under certain limited circumstances. 4. Reasonable and necessary expenses of the last sickness, including compensation of persons attending your mother. 5. All debts and taxes owed to the government. 6. Wages due to employees earned within 3 months before the date of death. 7. Property assigned to a surviving spouse. 8. All other claims. You should explain to your mother's creditors that there are no assets in her estate available to pay and supply any documentation requested by the State of Wisconsin with regard to her nursing home care expenses.
    Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
    Replied: 1/27/2012
    Whiteford, Taylor, & Preston | Edwin Fee
    As long as you didn't obligate yourself regarding the debts (for example, by signing an agreement with the nursing home to be responsible for payment), then you shouldn't be liable for the debts.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 1/27/2012
    Gregory T. Taylor, ESQ
    Gregory T. Taylor, ESQ | Gregory Taylor
    In Kentucky, heirs are not personally responsible for their deceased parent's bills. Those debts can only be satisfied out of her estate and you should not take personal responsibility to pay anything out of your own pocket unless you have personally signed documents obligating you to pay. However, in the instance where you may be the only heir and there are just a few small debts that will certainly be satisfied by the assets you stand to inherit, it is not wrong to go ahead and pay those to prevent interest, fees, and penalties from accruing.
    Answer Applies to: Kentucky
    Replied: 1/27/2012
    Della Rocca Law, LLC | Brian R. Della Rocca
    Typically, when someone dies with unsecured debts outstanding but with no money in the estate, the creditor does not get paid. Absent unusual circumstances, you are not liable for those debts. An account held jointly with rights of survivorship passes to the joint owner automatically upon the death of the other joint owner. There are vey few instances in which a creditor can collect on that type of account. You should sit down with an attorney to discuss this matter.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 1/27/2012
    Harville-Stein Law Offices, LLC
    Harville-Stein Law Offices, LLC | Dean D. Stein
    Unless you signed as guarantor on any of these accounts, you do not have personalliability for the debts of a parent at their death. If you open an estate,then assets that are part of the estate, are subject to the creditors filing claims. If your parent had no assets left, if the house if heavily mortgaged or has a lien fromMedicaid or a nursing home, then you willlikely not open an estate and simply walk away. Again, if you guaranteed her bills with the nursing home, then that would be different. Do not let creditors guilt you, or shame you into paying her bills out of your pocket.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 1/27/2012
    THE BROOME LAW FIRM, LLC | Barry D. Broome
    You are NOT responsible for her debts unless you signed an agreement to do so.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 1/27/2012
    The Schreiber Law Firm
    The Schreiber Law Firm | Jeffrey D. Schreiber
    No, you are not liable for debts which were incurred by her alone. Only if you signed to be responsible would you have any liability.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/27/2012
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    As a general rule, children are not responsible, unless they signed or authorized the debts. It is very important that neither you nor the other children talk with the creditors or collectors on the phone at all. (Ifthey call, hang up). Send them one letter (certified return receipt), with a death certificate enclosed saying "I do not owe this debt. It is not mine and the debtor has died, leaving no assets or estate. I am aware of no probate. Pursuant to the Federal Fair Debt Collection Act and other laws, you are forbidden from ever calling or writing me again, and further attempts to contact me may result in litigation against you for the wrongful contact."
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 1/27/2012
    Siegel & Siegel, P.C. | Sharon M. Siegel
    No. You do not have to pay the bills.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 1/27/2012
    The Law Office of David L. Leon
    The Law Office of David L. Leon | David L. Leon
    No, the heirs are not responsible for the debts of the deceased UNLESS those debts were guaranteed or co-signed, or unless the heirs took assets from the deceased that could have been used to pay the debts.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 1/27/2012
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