Would a daughter be responsible for her deceased mother’s mortgage?

My mother-in-law died owing on an “underwater” mortgage. My wife does not want the house and her mom had no other money or assets. Can she simply walk away and let the bank foreclose? Her mother was the only person named on the mortgage. Would my wife be responsible for her mother’s debts if she is not named or co-owner on anything?

Asked on November 7, 2011 under Estate Planning, Missouri

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your wife's loss.  I can only give guidance here in generalities. For anything specific your wife should seek to consult with some one in your area and bring with her all the relevant documents for the estate in general and for the house specifically.  Generally speaking, your Mother in Law's estate is responsible for her debts when she passed away. In other words, your wife would not be held personally liable for the debts of her Mother. That includes the mortgage and any credit card bills, outstanding utility bills, outstanding tax bills, etc.  An estate can indeed be "insolvent" or "bankrupt" and can file for bankruptcy too.  But you have no intention on filing an estate at all, correct?  Good luck to you.


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