If you are a child or sibling of a person who has failed to pay their debts, you may be wondering if you are responsible for those debts. The answer to that question is “no” in North Carolina.
The responsibility for debt falls on the person who incurred the debt, not their family members. This is true regardless of whether the family member knew about the debt or not.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if you co-signed a loan, you will have to pay it back. Why?
When an individual co-signs a loan, they are agreeing to be financially responsible for the debt if the original borrower is unable to repay it. This is because the co-signer is essentially vouching for the borrower’s creditworthiness and ability to repay the loan.
If the loan goes into default, the co-signer can be held liable for the full amount of the debt, even if they themselves never took out the loan. This is sometimes called “the principle of vicarious liability.”
How May Creditors Recover Their Debt if Your Parent or Sibling Is Owing?
If an individual is indebted to a creditor, they will be held liable to repay the debt. In some cases, the individual may be able to negotiate a settlement with the creditor in order to repay the debt over time.
However, if the individual is unable to repay the debt, the creditor may take legal action in order to recover the money owed. This can involve filing a lawsuit against the individual or seizing assets that are owned by the individual.
If a relative dies owing money to creditors, the creditors will try to recover the debt from the deceased’s estate. However, this can be difficult if the deceased’s estate is insolvent.
Can You Decide To Pay Off the Debt(s)?
It’s important to understand that when a person dies, their estate is liable for any outstanding debts. This means that if the deceased person owed money to creditors, they will be paid before the rest of the estate is divided among the heirs. As a family member, you are not liable to pay the debt, the estate is.
However, as we mentioned above, if the estate is insolvent (an insolvent estate is an estate in which the assets are not enough to cover the debts; the debts are higher than the assets), a family member may decide to pay the debt if they wish. While you cannot be compelled to do so, common reasons why people may pay insolvent debts for a family estate include:
a.) People may pay insolvent debts for a family estate because they feel a sense of moral obligation.
b.) People may also pay insolvent debts to maintain their family’s reputation.
c.) People may pay insolvent debts to keep the family estate in the family.
But, again, if you decide not to, you cannot be forced to do so. Instead, the creditors will sell assets from the estate, and the debt balance will have to be written off as a “bad debt,” a term used to describe a debt that is not likely to be repaid.
What Responsibility Do You Have Towards Your Parents In North Carolina?
Filial responsibility laws are a set of laws that require adult children to provide financial support for their parents if the parents cannot provide for themselves. While it does not apply in every state, it does in North Carolina.
In North Carolina, filial responsibility laws apply to both married and unmarried children, and the child is responsible for providing whatever support the parent needs if the parent is ill, disabled, or needy. If the child cannot afford to provide this support, they may be required to sell assets or use other means to come up with the money as they may be sent to jail if they fail to support their parents.
This responsibility, however, does not apply to paying the parents’ debt(s). You don’t have to if you don’t want to.
What Responsibility Do You Have Towards Your Siblings in North Carolina?
There are no laws governing sibling responsibility in North Carolina. However, as general “unwritten rules,” siblings in North Carolina have a responsibility to each other to provide support, love, and guidance.
They are generally responsible for upholding family traditions and maintaining communication. Siblings are also encouraged to be there for each other in both good and bad times, and they should always try to put the other’s needs before their own.
Contact Our Wilmington Estate Planning Team
In conclusion, it is important to understand that you are not responsible for the debts of a parent or sibling in North Carolina. If you are contacted by a creditor or collection agency about the debts of an estate, it is important to speak with an experienced Wilmington estate planning attorney to protect your rights. Contact us today to schedule a consultation for your estate planning needs!