Am I responsible for my deceased husband's debt to his parents?
My husband passed away 3 months ago. Out of the blue his parents came to me and said my husband owed them $38,000. What should I do legally?
The first thing that you should do is see what money if any is in your husband's estate. If there was no money in his estate and his property past to you, then your know what assets you have on hand. The next step is to ask his parents to provide you with the evidence of the debt- i.e. the written documentation. The debt is likely a bogus debt and his parents are shaking you down for money that you do not owe. I suggest that if they claim that the debt is oral loan agreement, you let them know that there is no money in the estate and that the loan is unenforceable. If they file a lawsuit against you, hire a lawyer to defend it as I am sure there is no basis for the debt (i.e. the parents cannot prove it), and if they try, they will likely get caught in a lie. Deny the claim and force them to file a lawsuit.
There is no clear cut answer for this and I would suggest that you consult an attorney with all the facts and documents available.
Generally, the estate of the decedent is responsible for the debt. The executor of your estate has the obligation to gather all the assets and debt and pay off the debt of the decedent with the assets of the estate. This issue comes up with credit cards a lot. If you are a co-applicant of the credit card account then you are responsible for the debt on the card. If you just have signatory privileges the card company can not really come after you or they would have to show that the use of the card was actually yours or for your benefit. Tough to do.
This issue also becomes a bit muddled when property pases by operation of law to a spouse. In community prooerty states it becomes even more muddled. Was the $38,000 a loan? Is there any documentation as to same? I would consult an attorney in your area as to this debt. If you did not sign any documents to borrow the money and knew nothing about it I would not be as concerned, but get all the facts and present them to the lawyer. Good luck.