It is not uncommon for a decedent's
creditors to contact the person's adult children. The caller
will request that the child pay the parent's outstanding debts. Often
the debts are medical bills. These calls are understandably unnerving
for a child who is coping emotionally with the death of a parent.
So is a child responsible
for his deceased parent's unpaid bills? Unless you have signed as a
guarantor, the answer is generally no. It is the decedent's estate that
is responsible for paying debts. If you are contacted by a creditor or
collection agency regarding your late parent's debts, refer them to the personal representative or trustee
for the estate, whose job it is to pay valid debts from the funds of
the estate. If there are insufficient funds to pay debts, it generally
goes unpaid. The children are not on the hook.
I warn the children of my deceased clients to not give callers of this
nature any personal information. Many scam artists check the death
notices and then contact the decedent's children, hoping to gain access
to personal information which is then used fraudulently.
If you continue to be bothered
by your late parent's creditors, write a letter to them requesting that
they refrain from contacting you in the future. If you continue to have
problems, contact your state's attorney general. To access the online
complaint form of the Florida Attorney General's Office, click here.
Attorney Joseph S. Karp is a
Florida Bar Certified and Nationally Certified Elder Law Attorney focusing on
Elder Law, Probate, Estate Planning, Asset Protection, Special Needs Planning
and Estate Litigation. He is AV rated by Martindale Hubbell. Mr. Karp is the
founder of The Karp Law Firm, a South Florida law firm with offices in Palm
Beach Gardens, Boynton Beach and St. Lucie, Florida. Mr. Karp was named a
2011 SuperLawyer by SuperLawyer Magazine and a member of the 2011
Florida Legal Elite by Florida Trend Magazine. He is admitted to
practice law in New York as well as Florida. Visit Mr. Karp's Florida Elder Law and Estate Planning
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