Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
Hi, I will be happy to assist you, and it is my goal to make you a very satisfied customer! This may take a few minutes, so thanks for your patience.
In no event are you responsible for your mother's debt unless you cosigned or guaranteed the debt. Since the money was paid to her while she was alive and she then passed away, the money would typically be part of her estate. In that event, you would need to open a probate and allow creditors the opportunity to make valid claims to the money and be paid. After payment of valid claims, if any were made, then you could distribute the funds to the beneficiary or beneficiaries of her estate. However, in some cases, a person must survive a set number of days before being entitled to funds. It may be that the insurance company is now treating her as already deceased so they can pay the funds directly to the next beneficiary under the insurance policy. You would need to discuss this with the insurance company to determine whether they can pay it to you as beneficiary due to a clause in the policy that required her survival after your father for a set number of days. If there is no such provision, then you need to ask them their basis for paying the check to you versus to her estate (in the latter case you would proceed as discussed above -- and that would be typical; if you take the money and it should have gone to her estate, then the creditors could later make claims against you for not properly administering her estate before taking the funds; that it is why it's so important to discover the insurance company's basis for saying they can now write the check to you). If you came into my office, I would tell you the exact same thing and offer to call the company for you to determine more information. Unfortunately, I cannot provide that type of service to you, so you'll have to make those calls yourself.
Please let me know if I can provide clarification or additional information. Thanks.
DISCLAIMER: Answers from Experts on JustAnswer are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. JustAnswer is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Expert above is not your attorney, and the response above is not legal advice. You should not read this response to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law that might affect the situation you describe. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction to which your question pertains.
The responses above are from individual Experts, not JustAnswer. The site and services are provided “as is”. To view the verified credential of an Expert, click on the “Verified” symbol in the Expert’s profile. This site is not for emergency questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals. Please carefully read the Terms of Service (last updated February 8, 2012).