Am I responsible for father's unpaid income taxes? There is no will.

Asked over 2 years ago - Charlotte, NC

My father-in-law passed away in NY state 2 months ago. He left no will. His house has no equity in it and he has under $6K in the bank. We have not gone for Letters of Administration. We have sold his car for pennies and am working on selling the home in which there will be maybe profit of $20K. There was a retirement plan of $1500 and a compensation plan of $5K that listed my husband and 2 siblings beneficiaries of. Will we be responsible to pay his unpaid income taxes?

Attorney answers (5)

  1. Sabrina Winters


    Contributor Level 11


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You need to immediately contact a probate attorney in New York to advise you on this. You personally are not responsible, but his estate is. The IRS usually is in most states at the top of the list of creditors to be paid. You do not want to disburse or transfer anything until you talk to an attorney. If you do, and there are unpaid income taxes that are required to be paid, you run the risk of having insufficient assets in the do not want to be in that position against any creditor with a valid claim...especially the IRS.

    The information is made available by Sabrina Winters, Attorney at Law, (publisher) for educational purposes only... more
  2. Cheryl K. David


    Contributor Level 15


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Debts of the decedent are the responsibility of the estate, not the children. I would suggest that you speak to an attorney in NY before proceeding further. Often to sell the house the will must be probated, but you should not probate the will in this instance without legal help, because once you become the personal representative, you will have responsibility on behalf of the estate to pay the outstanding debts in the correct order out of the estate.

  3. Doris Jordan Wiggen

    Contributor Level 8


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You should not distribute any of your father-in-law's assets until you have an opportunity to meet with a probate attorney in New York. While you normally would not be personally liable for his unpaid taxes, you could be liable if you distribute assets from his estate that should have been paid to his creditors. A New York probate attorney can instruct you as to which assets are subject to your father-in-law's creditors and explain the responsibilities you will have as administrator of his estate.

    You should not act upon any information contained in this website without first seeking legal counsel to... more
  4. James P. Frederick

    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I agree with all of the other responses and I would simply add that, unless the real estate was jointly owned or provided for a transfer upon death, you will not be ABLE to sell it unless and until you open a probate estate. The estate would be responsible for any taxes or other administrative expenses.

    I strongly suggest that you at least consult with a probate attorney before deciding how to proceed.

    James Frederick

    *** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and... more
  5. Christopher Michael Larson

    Contributor Level 19


    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . They will take these from the estate before you are ever given ownership of assets.

    Christopher Larson

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