Does being someone’s PR make you responsible for paying a bill after that person has passed away?

I was my Aunt’s PR, and she passed away. I tried to close out a safe deposit box several years ago but could only find  key. I was told it would cost $100 to re-drill it; I wouldn’t pay that. The box is empty. A woman from the bank called  2 or 3 months ago and asked if I could get the remaining key to her. I said that I would and I also informed them that there was no more money in the estate to pay for rent on the box. She said that she would work with me. I didn’t hear anything from them until this week. They are demanding that I come to the bank and sign papers to close the box and pay the bill. Am I liable?

Asked on March 25, 2011 under Estate Planning, Nebraska


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  Generally speaking, you are not responsible personally for the debts of your Aunt. Your Aunt's estate is responsible for the debts incurred.  But it is your responsibility to manage the estate properly and to make sure that all the bills are paid, etc.  You should have taken steps years ago to close out the box and sign the necessary paperwork not to incur the additional fees over the years.  So I fear her that if you breached your fiduciary duty as the Personal Representative of your Aunt's estate that you could be help liable in some way.  I would speak with someone on this matter.  Good luck to you.

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