What happens to debts owed to my parent’s estate?

UPDATED: Oct 2, 2022

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

UPDATED: Oct 2, 2022Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

What happens to debts owed to my parent’s estate?

My parent recently died. Many years ago, my parent divorced not from my other parent and at the conclusion of the proceedings the ex-spouse was court ordered to pay a large sum, monthly, until my parent’s death. However, the ex-spouse never paid this money, and my parent decided not to initiate a lawsuit or try to get a lawyer to file the documentation to garnish wages, seize bank account, etc. as my parent didn’t feel like going through more court and stress at the time. However, this money was legally owed to them. Is it possible that during the probate/estate process that I can hire an attorney to make sure that this debt is collected upon and paid to the estate?

Asked on October 21, 2019 under Estate Planning, Maryland


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

A debt owed to the deceased is a debt owed to the estate, so the estate could potentially sue for the money. The executor or personal representative for the estate (presumably, you) could retain an attorney to bring a legal action for the money, subject to all the usual legal rules (e.g. statute of limitations: has too much time passed to sue over this debt?). However, bear in mind that the right to collect does not mean you will collect: if the ex-spouse is insolvent (no money; or only money you can't touch, like social security or 401k/pension funds) the estate won't get anything--a successful lawsuit does not money appear where there is none.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption