If I file estate papers with the court if, will I become liable for all my mother’s debt?

My mother passed away and I am the only immediate family she has. I am trying not to file estate papers because I am afraid that her bill collectors will try to take the remainder of the small life insurance policy that is left after I pay funeral expenses. Also, she lost her house and the foreclosure has been ongoing for 6 years now. I do not want them coming after me saying I am responsible for her house.

Asked on June 13, 2016 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

The executor (when there is a Will) or personal representative (if there is no Will) is not liable to pay the debts of the estate, so long as they adminster the estate in an honest and reasonable manner. Further, in PA, there is a simplified probate procedure for small estates. To use it, an executor must file a written request with the county probate court asking it for permission to use the simplified process. The court may then authorize the executor to pay creditors and distribute the assets without having to go through the the time and expense of a formal probate. This small estate administration can be used if property (not counting real estate, certain vehicles, certain payments the family is entitled to,and funeral costs) is worth $25,000 or less. For further information, contact the probate court. Also, as to the life insurance proceeds, they pass out side of probate. This means that they are payable directly to the named beneficary and are theirs free and clear of estate debts.

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