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Ask Dave

Responsible After Death

Jim has suffered a great loss and asks Dave how he should handle some money matters.

QUESTION: Jim in South Carolina had a daughter who died at 32. She lived with him for the last three years after she became disabled, but she was not financially tied to him. He wants to know if he must pay her unpaid student loans or medical bills. Dave says the only way one is responsible for someone's debt after death is if you co-signed on one of their loans.

Dave's ANSWER: You are not liable for anything you didn't sign for. If I move in with you, you don't become responsible for my debts. It's the same thing if she's kin to you. She is a legal adult who has signed her name on things.

If I were in your shoes, if you found the paperwork for these debts and when the death certificate is issued in a few weeks, make several copies of it and do a form letter that says she died with no assets and debts of a certain amount. You are notifying them that they are not going to get paid. There's no will or estate to be probated and they can just close the account, just as a courtesy.

It will also help you not be hammered by them calling you and bothering you about this stuff, hopefully. But they get nothing. If she has money in a checking account, the estate is still liable for the debts.

I'm sorry you guys are facing this much grief. You do not owe debts for someone else when they pass, even if they are family members, unless you signed for the debt.