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Outliving Your Debts


A lot of us are unconcerned about our debts. After all, we won’t have to deal with them anymore once we die, right?

Not necessarily. Debts don’t simply disappear when you die. They have to be paid somehow.

But what happens when there are more debts than assets when someone dies? The estate is then considered insolvent and bills are paid in a certain order based on state law. Some of the most important bills include fees for administering the estate, as well as funeral and burial expenses. Federal and state taxes and debts are also important.

If secured debts such as car loans and mortgages are not repaid or refinanced, then the lender can repossess the property. Unsecured debts, such as credit card bills or personal loans, are the last to be paid. If there is not enough money in the estate, the creditors get what’s left.

While adult children typically don’t have to pay their parents’ bills, there are exceptions. One of them is filial responsibility.

What is Filial Responsibility?

Filial responsibility refers to the duty owed by an adult child to pay for their parents’ life necessities. It’s commonly an issue in terms of long-term ​health care but could include other necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing.  Filial responsibility laws are the legal rules that hold adult children financially responsible for their parents’ medical care when parents are unable to pay.

29 states have filial responsibility laws in place, and Connecticut is one of them.  The good news is that this Connecticut law only applies to parents under the age of 65, so if your parents are older, you may not be responsible. That means you won’t have to pay for Mom’s or Dad’s long-term care expenses.

Will You Be on the Hook?

After a person dies, creditors can still seek reimbursement. They can file claims against the estate’s assets and those claims will need to be paid before the heirs receive anything. While you may not have to pay your parents’ debts directly, the estate will likely be responsible for them. This will reduce what you inherit.

Creditors may try to contact relatives about the deceased person’s debts, but those family members generally have no legal obligation to pay. They will have to pay up, though, if either of the following applies:

  • They co-signed a loan or were a joint account holder.
  • They were legally responsible for settling the estate but did not follow state law.

This is why estate planning is key. With proper planning, inheritances might be saved. 

Contact Us Today

Debt is a problem that many people have—even elderly people. If your debts will outlive you, it’s a good idea to figure out what will happen to them and how they will affect your loved ones.

Ensure that you have the right tools in place to provide for your family after your death. Contact Canton estate planning attorney Brian S. Karpe. He can ensure you have the right estate plan for your needs. Call our office at 860-217-1458 to schedule a consultation.



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