Can a child be held liable for a deceased parent’s bills?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can a child be held liable for a deceased parent’s bills?

My mom died and owed on her credit cards and other bills. Do I have to pay them?

Asked on October 20, 2018 under Estate Planning, Idaho


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No, you are not liable for any of your mother's bills or other debts. That is unless you personally co-signed for them or otherwise guaranteed their payment. That having been said, there is an exception. The only time that a child may possibly be held responsible for a parental debt is under something called "the doctrine of filial responsibility". Some states require adult children to care for their parents financially. However, even when enforced (and they rarely are), it is only for reimbursement to Medicaid for nursing home expenses.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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