Skip to main content

I inherited an estate that had no assets. Am I responsible for selling the household goods to pay the debt?

Philadelphia, PA |

If I inherited and am responsible for an estate that has large debts, (in this case, credit card, medical, mortgage, property tax) do I have to try to sell the furniture and the silver to pay them? What if I keep an item? Is someone going to sue me? And if I am, can I pay myself first for the time spent administering the estate to do this for the creditors? It's pretty time consuming.

+ Read More

Attorney answers 3


It's technically incorrect to say you inherited when the estate is insolvent. As an heir you have no obligation to file a petition for probate. If you do then you take on the duties of an administrator or executor and can be paid out of the assets of the estate a reasonable fee for administering the estate (before any claims that don't involve liens on real estate). The reasonable consts of administration of the estate are payable prior to any unsecured creditors. Additionally if there is a family exemption that gets paid before any creditors get paid. You should talk to a seasoned probate attorney about how to proceed whether or not you have already filed a petition for probate.

Cynthia A McNicholas

Cynthia A McNicholas


Agreed. You do not have an obligation, based on the facts you've related, to apply for letters. Perhaps one of the creditors will apply to administer the estate. If you paid the funeral bill from your own funds, you are also a creditor of the estate. None of us can tell you that it is OK to keep an item from the estate. You would benefit from a consultation from an experienced probate/estate attorney in the area where the decedent resided.


Hello ...

You indicated that you inherited a "mortgage" and "property tax" which leads me to believe that real estate also appears to be in the decedent's name alone (and please correct me if I am wrong).

Without knowing more facts, I would suggest that you consult with an attorney who practices in this area in order that a clearer picture can be painted.

Undertaking an estate is rather time consuming - it also carries with it the fiduciary duty to do things properly and by the book.

Good luck.


Although we invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters, and electronic mail, please remember that this information is for informational purposes only, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not intended to be the rendering of legal advice for specific cases, you should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel, and you should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Good luck. John


The other attorneys offer good advice and you should have a consultation. Some estate like this are better to just walk away from.

This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided here is informational in nature only. This attorney may not be licensed in the jurisdiction which you have a question about so the answer could be only general in nature.