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Dave Ramsey says: Are you financially responsible after death?

Published: Monday, Jan. 7 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

Mourners embrace after a funeral for Hector "Macho" Camacho at St. Cecilia's Roman Catholic Church in New York, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. Dave Ramsey discusses what financial responsibilities families have when a loved one dies.

Craig Ruttle, AP

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Dear Dave,

My daughter died. She was 32 years old and single, and she had lived with me for the last few years because she was recently disabled. I did not support her financially, and when she died she had no assets and no will. Is it my responsibility to pay the student loans and medical bills she left behind?

Jim

Dear Jim,

Im so sorry youre experiencing this kind of grief. Losing a child is a heartbreaking experience, no matter their age.

The short answer is this: If you didnt sign for it, youre not liable. If a friend were to move in with you, that doesnt make you responsible for their debts. The fact that it was an adult family member doesnt matter either. She was a legal adult who signed her name on the debts in question.

If I were in your shoes, I would try to find any papers attached to these debts and make copies of them. Then, I would write up a form letter stating the total debt amount and the fact that she died with no assets. By doing this youre notifying them that she passed away, and theyre not going to be paid. Theres no will or estate to be probated, so they can close the accounts.

Doing this will make creditors aware of the situation, and it should also protect you from getting hammered with collection calls. But the creditors get nothing in this kind of situation.

God bless you, Jim.

Dave

Dear Dave,

My husband doesnt like dealing with money. For years, Ive handled everything from paying the bills to making the decisions, and he just does whatever I tell him. This makes things really hard on me, but he says financial issues cause him stress. Do you have any suggestions?

Carol Lee

Dear Carol Lee,

The plain truth is you need your husband to step up and be a man. Im sure hes a nice guy, but its unfair for you alone to carry the weight of all financial and household decisions. It would be unfair, too, if he were the one carrying it all. This isnt a gender issue.

My wife and I are involved in all the decisions in our home, and thats especially true when it comes to money. We do a budget, and we decide together where the moneys going. Its not a situation where shes a little girl, and her daddy named Dave takes care of her and everything else. Thats the kind of thing youve got going on now. You feel like his mom rather than his wife, and thats not what a healthy marriage is about.

You need to sit down with him and explain why this is so important to you and how it makes you feel. Youre not asking him to be a number cruncher, but he has to grow up and become part of the team. You can play the role of CFO and write all the checks. But you and he together are the board of directors. You just need 15 to 20 minutes of his time each week, so you guys can discuss whats going on and how to handle thingstogether!

Dave

*Dave Ramsey is Americas trusted voice on money and business. Hes authored four New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 6 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

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