Dear Liz: My brother recently passed away at 50. He had not held a job in more than 10 years and was single with no kids and no bank accounts. Basically his only asset at death was his bedroom furniture. My parents paid his health insurance and living expenses to ensure my brother had some quality of life. Since his passing the bills from the medical providers are starting to get routed to my parents. Do my parents have an obligation to pay my brother’s bills? How should we deal with these creditors?
Answer: Your brother’s bills are the responsibility of his estate, not your parents. His creditors would have to be paid if he had any assets, but in this case they’re out of luck.
That doesn’t mean they won’t keep trying, however. Your parents could opt to ignore the calls, letters and guilt trips the collectors try to inflict. Or your parents could talk to a probate attorney who is familiar with the laws of the state where your brother died. The state probably has some kind of simplified probate that would allow your parents to legally resolve these bills and put an end to collection activities.