Question: Do inheritors have a responsibility to pay their parents’ loans with assets from the estate or with their own assets?
Answer: Inheritors are obligated to pay their parents’ debts from the estate (B.B. 157a). In the time of the Gemara, there was a legal lien only on inherited real estate [although there was a mitzvah of kibbud av v’em to pay even from moveable items]. However, the Shulchan Aruch writes that nowadays there is a legal obligation to pay also from moveable items and cash (C.M. 107:1).
Furthermore, the inheritors have to pay from debts owed to their father that were collected after his death, including bank accounts. However, the creditor does not collect from assets that came to the father only after his death, e.g., subsequent inheritance from another, a raffle ticket, etc. (Rama 104:16; Pischei Choshen Halva’ah 9:ftnt. 10).
If the lender does not possess a formal loan document and it is possible that the loan was already repaid, the inheritors are not obligated to repay the loan, especially if they are minors. However, if they know that the loan was not repaid, they are obligated to pay it (see C.M. 108).
Regardless, the children are not responsible to pay parents’ debts from their own assets. If the father was negligent in not having repaid, though, it is meritorious for the children to settle with the creditor (Aruch Hashulchan 107:2).
Authored by Rabbi Meir Orlian
These articles are for learning purposes only and cannot be used for final halachic decision.
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