Is parent liable for adult child’s debt?

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Q. My son passed away on Nov. 15, 2017. He left delinquent notices from four police departments and the amount owed on is enormous. Is the parent of an adult child responsible? He also has a very large surcharge owed to New Jersey for traffic fines.
— Mom

A. We’re sorry to hear of your son’s untimely passing.

It looks like you’re off the hook for these debts.

“Unless your son had assets that you kept, or you are the representative of the estate and estate has the means to pay the fines, you as the parent are generally not responsible for those debts and most other debts — unless you made an agreement with a creditor or court, signed a guarantee or were a co-signor on the debt,” said Anthony Vignier, a certified financial planner and attorney with Vignier Investment Group in Kearny.

If your son had assets, it is possible that you may need to probate the estate, Vignier said.

If there are no assets, you should send a letter by certified mail explaining that he died and provide a copy of his death certificate, Vignier said.

“Since you mention that he had a large debt it may be beneficial for you to meet with a probate attorney to review your case in more detail just to be safe,” he said.

Email your questions to moc.p1579460349leHye1579460349noMJN1579460349@ksA1579460349.

This post was first published in December 2017. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.