Posts Tagged ‘Probate’

I have my dead mom’s Power Of Attorney, can I sell her house?

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

I have had a few questions lately from people who say they have a Power Of Attorney for their parent and the parent recently died.  Usually, they want to know if they can use that Power Of Attorney to sell their parent’s house.

A Power Of Attorney allows the agent to do anything that the principal can do.  In the situation above, the child was named as the agent and the parent was the principal.

If we think about it logically, a principal can’t do anything after they have died, and that is exactly what happens with the Power Of Attorney.  It dies with the principal.

The next question is ‘what happens to the house?’  That would depend.

If the house was deeded with some sort of survivorship option, then the house would belong to the survivor automatically and would not be considered as part of the deceased’s estate.

If there was a Will, the Will would describe what would happen to assets in the deceased’s estate, including the house if that was part of the estate.

If there was not a Will, the statutes covering intestate (without a Will) division of property would control.  In Virginia, the house would then go to the legal heirs of the decedent.

The Virginia probate process is relatively easy in comparison to some other states.  You can contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the jurisdiction (city or county) where the deceased lived and the probate clerk can often be of great assistance.  Or, you can contact a probate attorney to help with the situation.

But remember that after the person dies, the Power Of Attorney terminates automatically and is no longer effective at all.  Having a complete Estate Plan can help eliminate this problem situation.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal matter, please contact the office at 757-234-4650 to schedule a consultation.

Who pays the debts when someone dies?

Monday, February 13th, 2012

This has come up twice in the past week.

In one instance someone asked me if they could file an ‘estate bankruptcy’ because the person who died had a lot of debt and there was not enough money to pay all of the outstanding bills.  In another instance someone said that they knew that the children were responsible for their parent’s bills when they died.

Bankruptcy is only available for living beings or businesses.  An estate can’t file for Bankruptcy.  If there isn’t enough money to  pay all of the debts, the estate is just considered ‘insolvent’.

If you are the executor or administrator of an insolvent estate, you are not automatically personally responsible for the payment of all of the debts, but you should make sure that you know the order in which to pay any of the debts because if you pay them in the wrong order you might be held personally responsible for the wrongful payment amount.

If you are not the executor or administrator of the insolvent estate, and you haven’t signed something saying that you have accepted responsibility for a parent’s debt, it is not your debt and you do not have to pay.  Remember this when someone puts a paper in front of you to sign that you will accept responsibility to pay.

In fact, if you are not the executor or administrator of an estate, you don’t need to do anything at all.

You are not automatically responsible for your parent’s outstanding debts when they die just because you are the child.

Of course, if there are any assets in the estate, those assets should be used first to pay any bills and the heirs will only receive what is left.  If there isn’t enough to pay all of the debt, there won’t be any left for the heirs.

So what happens to that unpaid debt?  It just doesn’t get paid at all.  It is usually just ‘charged off’ by the debtor as uncollectible.

If you are worried that you might have to pay someone else’s debts after they have died, you might want to consider talking to a probate attorney or the official who handles probate matters where the person died.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at