Question: “I am an only child with two parents who don’t have a lot of money and have a fair amount of debt. They don’t have any assets or an estate. Neither are in great health. I am very worried that their debt and hospital bills will transfer to me when they die.”
Answer: Children are not generally responsible for the debts and other obligations of their parents when their parents die. A child is liable only if he or she is a joint debtor, co-signs, or otherwise agrees to pay the creditor. Virginia law sets out the priority for debts to be paid by an estate. Generally, if there is not enough to pay creditors, the administrator of the estate can send each creditor a letter stating that debts exceed the assets and creditors will be paid in accordance with the priority set under Virginia law. Estate administration costs are paid first, then creditors in the order established by statute until funds run out.
For more information, visit the Wills, Trusts, and Estates section of our website.