Our father died in april, leaving a will that we had drafted just about a week before his passing. He left behind a house that he is underwater on (we're planning to let it go into foreclosure) and a lot of debt (mostly overdue bills that have gone into collection) and late utility bills. His bank account, which is joint with my sister (his POA, and personal representitive of the will), has about $7000 before any attorney/filing fees for filing the will.
He also leaves behind a coin collection that has been valued at about $750.
I have heard that children of deceased parents are NOT responsible for the parent's debt. But if there is an estate account set up, will creditors have a right to money in that account?
The answer is, generally, "no" as to whether children are responsible for a parents debts and "yes" as to the probate process. The purpose of a probate estate is to settle matters - debts, funeral expenses, taxes - and there are many procedural rules related to the process.
I would suggest that you consult with a local probate attorney to make sure that you and your siblings do not end up being liable for something when, at this time, you are not.
I would suggest looking on this website or www.naela.org for an attorney who practices in the county where you father died.
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Please accept my condolences for your loss.
No, you're not liable for the debt under Massachusetts law. The law specifies the order of priorities for the creditors of the estate. The first item is the cost of estate administration (court costs, legal fees, etc.), then reasonable funeral expenses, then taxes and secured creditors, then final medical expenses, then unsecured creditors, and then MassHealth liens and all other claims. The creditors have the right to notice of the probate, but your attorney will get paid before any other creditors for his work.
E. Alexandra "Sasha" Golden is a Massachusetts lawyer. All answers are based on Massachusetts law. All answers are for educational purposes and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to a question.
The other two lawyers have given you good advice. I would simply add that in your situation, you will want to check with a lawyer to make sure that probate administration is necessary, at all. In Michigan, it would not be, under your situation. Small estate proceedings may be available to you, and/or the minimal assets that you mention may be protected or preserved from creditors by an exempt property allowance. In Michigan, $13,000 in assets can be excluded on this allowance, alone.
Normally, if there are no probate assets and an estate is not filed, the creditors tend to be out of luck. This depends on state and federal laws, who the creditors are, and the nature and the amount of the claims. You owe it to yourself to meet with a lawyer and purchase an hour's worth of time, to determine how best to proceed.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.
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