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When your parents die broke

Losing a parent is one of the most difficult things you may ever go through, and it can prove even more emotionally taxing if you are the one in charge of handling your mother or father’s estate after his or her passing. Increasingly, members of the boomer generation are passing away and leaving considerable debt behind, which, in many cases, leaves their loved ones wondering what to do about it, and whether they, themselves, might be on the hook for it. If you count yourself among those who have recently had a parent die broke or without leaving enough money behind to cover debts and financial obligations, here are some key things you should know:

You are probably not responsible for your parents’ debts.

Despite what your parents’ creditors may tell you, unless you cosigned on credit cards or other accounts or otherwise applied for credit together with your parent who passed away, you probably do not have any legal obligation to pay debts. Please note, however, that creditors may try to make you feel as if you have an ethical duty to pay off your mother or father’s debts, but that does not necessarily mean that you have to do so.

Careful record-keeping will typically benefit you.

If you think about how difficult it can be to stay on top of your own bills and finances, you can probably imagine just how hard it can be to do the same for someone’s else’s. When working through your mom or dad’s financial matters, it will typically benefit you to take meticulous notes on everyone you speak with, and you should also include information about exactly what you discuss. You can anticipate communications with lenders, collection agencies and other entities, and it can get confusing if you do not carefully track every conversation you have.

In summary, dealing with the loss of a parent is difficult enough, but it can take even more of an emotional toll if you are under the assumption that you must come up with the money to pay your parents’ debts. Know your rights in this area, and if you question what a creditor tells you, you may be wise to seek out legal assistance.

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