Sunday, May 26, 2013

Adult children can face surprise debts in estates

Apparently, adult children are finding themselves on the hook in estate situations where they didn’t know enough about an elder’s finances before a sudden death.  That seems to be the warning in a Business Day article by Tara Siegel Bernard. “The talk you didn’t have with your parents could cost you,” the “Your Money” column,. Saturday.  The link is here.
In the story presented, a woman only in her mid seventies had fallen to her death in her home. (I have basemaent stairs and must use the rail handle every time – even when carrying stuff downstairs).  The woman had a mortgage that the kids didn’t know about.  And there were multiple Steve-Heller-like Catch 22’s, in getting a death certificate and in being able to get precise information on the amounts owed. 
My own father took out a mortgage on the family Drohega in the 1950s (with no Richard Chamberlain priestly character) in order to help the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC with its new building in 1955.  I didn’t find out about this until around 1996, when I went over my own medical records (dating back to 1962), all in paper, from my stay at the National Institutes of Health in my college years.  However, no evidence of such a loan has ever surfaced since I returned “home” in 2003, before my mother’s passing at the end of 2010. 

The article discusses the desirability of trusts (revocable at first) and also of joint accounts (JNT’s), both of which make life much simpler in states with complicated probate processes.  

I thought that adult children as individuals were not responsible for deceased parents' deaths if their names are not on joint accounts or there are no trusts.  So this seems like a mixed bag in some families.  

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