Are we responsible for deceased adult son's bills?

Asked over 4 years ago - 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)

  1. Steven J. Fromm

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . 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.
    Hope this helps. If you think this post was helpful, please check the thumbs up (helpful) tab below and/or designate my answer as best answer. Thanks.
    LEGAL DISCLAIMER
    Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law in PA with offices in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties and services clients in all parts of Pennsylvania. He can be reached at 215-735-2336 or at the email address listed below. He has an AV Preeminent Rating (5.0 out of 5.0) with Martindale-Hubbel, the highest possible rating for legal ability and ethical standards. Also, he has received a 10.0 rating from AVVO and was featured as a 5Star Wealth Manager in the Philadelphia Magazine, November 2009 issue on page 123.
    Mr. Fromm is ethically required to state that the response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/ client relationship. Also, there are no recognized legal specialties under Pennsylvania law. Any references to a trust, estate or tax lawyer refer only to the fact that Mr. Fromm limits his practice to these areas of the law. These responses are only in the form of legal education and are intended to only provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that if known could significantly change the reply or make such reply unsuitable. Mr. Fromm strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their state in order to ensure proper advice is received.
    By using this site you understand and agree that there is no attorney client relationship or confidentiality between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your jurisdiction, who is familiar with your specific facts and all of the circumstances and with whom you have an attorney client relationship. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance described in the question or omitted from the question.
    Circular 230 Disclaimer - Any information in this comment may not be used to eliminate or reduce penalties by the IRS or any other governmental agency.

  2. Paul Stephen Johnson

    Contributor Level 14

    Answered . 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.

  3. Michele G Pearson

    Contributor Level 10

    Answered . 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.

Can't find what you're looking for? Ask a Lawyer

Get free answers from experienced attorneys.

 

Ask now

21,974 answers this week

2,881 attorneys answering

Ask a Lawyer

Get answers from top-rated lawyers.

  • It's FREE
  • It's easy
  • It's anonymous

21,974 answers this week

2,881 attorneys answering