Am I liable for my mother’s bills if she should die?

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Am I liable for my mother’s bills if she should die?

I am paying her bills while she is unable from her account and didn’t know if I would be liable for them since my name is on her checks and checking account? It is not on any of her credit cards or other accounts.

Asked on March 9, 2011 under Estate Planning, Ohio

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Being on  joint checking account in no way obligates you for any of your deceased mother's bills.  As a rule a child does not inherit their parent's debt.  Unless a child specifically assume any such liability (for example, they were a co-signer on a loan), a child bears no legal responsibility for a deceased parent's finances.  The only time a child may possibly be held responsible for a parental debt is under the doctrine of "filial responsibility".  Many states with filial responsibility laws, require adult children to care for their parents financially.  However when enforced, typically it is only for reimbursement to Medicaid for nursing home expenses. 

Note:  The deceased's estate does bear responsibility for their debts.  Therefore, to the extent there are estate assets, creditors will need to be paid before any distribution is made to beneficiaries/heirs.  If there are not enough assets to cover outstanding debts, then creditors must right them off.


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