As more seniors are struggling financially, an increasing concern those who are or will be managing their parent’s estate have is “Am I going to be responsible for my parent’s debt?” Credit card debts and medical expenses can often overwhelm a family’s finances. The last thing a parent wants is to pass their debts onto their children.
In Massachusetts, children are usually not responsible for a parent’s debt. Unfortunately, pushy debt collectors may try to make you feel otherwise. While the debts of a deceased love one don’t disappear, they do become the responsibility of their estate. If you are the Personal Representative for your parent’s estate and the assets are not enough to pay all the debts, the laws of the Commonwealth specifically spell out which creditors have priority to receive payment over others. Creditors with higher payment priorities, such as end of life medical care, estate administration, or funeral homes, may have a higher priority claim. It is possible some of the debts deemed lower priority by the Probate Court will not be paid.
Who should I pay or not pay?
Be very careful paying lower priority debt holders such as credit card companies. If you are managing a parent’s estate, and lower priority debt holders are paid first without court approval, the “higher priority” claimants may have a claim against you.
Keep in mind debts can often be reduced by negotiating with the creditor, particularly lower priority creditors, such as, unsecure credit card companies.
When in Doubt, Seek Help
Financial matters are notoriously challenging, and things are even trickier when you’re trying to handle them on someone else’s behalf. It’s best to consult with an attorney to make sure you are following the probate laws in Massachusetts. With offices in Acton and Sudbury, our experienced Probate attorneys can help guide you through this process and, more importantly, allow you the time to grieve your loved one’s passing.