Will my children be sent to jail for my debts if I die and leave a mortgage and no assets at all?

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Will my children be sent to jail for my debts if I die and leave a mortgage and no assets at all?

I am 62 and have been sick for over a year; I am dying and bedridden now. Most seniors have a nest egg but I do not; I have absolutely no money at all or assets neither do they except for their own homes. Will they have to be jailed because of me? I know it maybe rare but what would be done?

Asked on January 5, 2019 under Estate Planning, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

1) There is no such thing as debtor's prison in the U.S.--people do not go to jail/prison for unpaid debts. They can go for committing fraud or other financial crimes, but not just for being in debt. You can be sued for not paying a debt, but not jailed.
2) Your children are NOT responsible for your debts anyway, unless they cosigned or guaranteed them. Debts are not inherited. So if they did not cosign/guaranty/etc. your debts, they don't need to pay them.
3) Creditors can put claims in against or sue your "estate"--the money, assets, and property you leave behind. So it is possibly that some or all of what you might otherwise be able to leave your children might be used up for debt. But if there is no money or property/assets and you children will not be inheriting from you anyway, this is not an issue.


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