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Are we responsible for deceased adult son's bills?

Philadelphia, PA |

My adult son passed away recently leaving behind many thousands in student loans and medical bills. We did not sign for liability to pay. He was working FT but had no assets. His health insurance paid for a fraction of the costs. The hospital wants us to apply for welfare on behalf of our son and requested all of his personal info...birth cert., ss card, driver's license, bank/payroll statements, etc. My husband signed the forms giving this collection agency power of attorney to act as liaison but I am reluctant to give over all his personal i.d. and have not done so. I would like to help the hospital that tried to save my son's life but I don't believe we are obligated to see that the hospital gets state money and am suspicious of turning over all his info to strangers.

Attorney Answers 3


Your son's debts are not your debts. You state that you did not sign any contracts obligating you for any of his debts. As a result, you are not liable for his debts.
In addition, you have no legal obligation to turn over any information to any third party and do not sign anything further without discussing such matters with an attorney.
I am not sure what your huband signed giving the collection agency power (and such action seems questionable at best without more details), since you have no power to represent his estate unless you are named as his executor/rix in a will or appointed by the register of wills to be an administrator/rix.
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My condolences for the loss of your child.

I agree that, in general, you are not liable for your son's debts. His estate is liable and debts should be paid out of the assets of the estate. However, you should check to determine if you co-signed any of his debts, especially the student loans, which parents often co-sign. You may be liable there. If your son was working up to the time of his death, a final income tax return should be filed on his behalf and his estate may be due a sizable refund.

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I am sorry to hear that your son passed away. In answer to your question, typically you are not responsible for your son's debts. Whatever he had should be liquidated by the executor of his estate and paid out to satisfy debts. If he died without a will, you will have to go through probate, notify his creditors, and work out a payment plan for payments to the extent of his holdings. This does not mean you should pay his debts. It does mean though that his estate probably owes. It sounds though that he owed much more than he possessed, so there is just so much from the liquidation to go around.

Doublecheck the student loans to make sure you did not co-sign or guarantee when he was younger.

Whatever you provided to the collection agency should probably be revoked immediately, take that document to any local attorney and have it interpreted. Moreover, unless your husband was already the executor of your son's estate or has been appointed executor, this document is likely null and void. Welfare for a deceased person's debts is something I have not heard of before, but your state may have such relief. Ask the attorney with whom you consult.

Your gut is right, do not provide and other personal information to anyone without the advice of an attorney.

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