Am I Liable for My Deceased Father's Debt?

If your father leaves debt behind when he passes away, collection agencies may contact you to attempt to recoup the money. Despite what they say, you probably don't have to pay your father's debt. You are liable only if you previously made an explicit statement to the effect that you would be responsible for debts left behind by your parent.

No Liability in Most Cases

A surviving relative usually has no legal obligation to pay the deceased's debts, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Commonly, your deceased father's estate bears the responsibility of paying his debts. The executor of the estate has to negotiate and pay your father's debts. If the estate doesn't have enough assets to pay the deceased's debts, these debts will go unpaid. You don't have to pay your father's debts with your own money.

When There is Liability

In some cases, you may be liable for the debt of a deceased parent. If you have a contractual obligation with the creditor by having cosigned for your father or by having jointly applied for credit with your father, you may be liable. However, even if you had the privilege of using some or all of the debt, you may not have the responsibility of paying for it. For example, if you are an authorised user on your father's credit card, you don't have to make any payment for the debt on the card.


Debt collectors, such as debt collecting agencies and lawyers, may contact you about your deceased father's debt. However, you don't have to speak to them unless you are your father's personal representative or you have a legal obligation to pay the debt. If you can't determine whether you have to pay the debt, you should talk to an attorney. Debt collectors often say anything to convince you to pay the debt.


The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) bans use of abusive, unfair or deceptive practices by debt collectors to obtain payment from the surviving relatives of a debtor. If you don't want to hear from them again, you can write a letter requesting no further contact. Give the collectors the contact details of your deceased father's estate executor or administrator. To minimise the risk of identity theft and fraud, don't give your personal information .

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About the Author

Edriaan Koening began writing professionally in 2005, while studying toward her Bachelor of Arts in media and communications at the University of Melbourne. She has since written for several magazines and websites. Koening also holds a Master of Commerce in funds management and accounting from the University of New South Wales.

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