My dad passed away in May. My mom has control of all of their accounts and the mortgage payment. After his dealth we have received numerous letters from collection agencies on accounts that were only in my dad's name and my mom does not have the financial status to payoff these collectors (she is living on social security). What would you advise us to do? The only thing in my mom's name is the house and a bank account. Could they put a lien on the house for the unpaid bills left in my dads name?
1 Answer from Attorneys
1. As an heir to your father's estate, you inherit all of his properties (ie. bank accounts, real estaste, etc.) as well as all his debts. You are personally responsible for all of your father's debts until his passing, as are all your father's descendants as heirs to his estate. In addition, your mother is entitled to a "widow's usufruct" over all estate properties.
2. Therefore, if you accept to be included in his estate, be it through a will, or through a Declaration of Heirs, you will need to begin negotiating with his creditors to pay off any debts left by your father. Otherwise, you can choose to relinquish this inheritance, but you must do so through a Public Scripture ("Escritura Pública").
3. If your mother's real estate property was purchased during her marriage with your father, with income generated during their marriage, it will most likely be communal marital property ('propiedad ganancial'), and your father will be presumed co-owner, regardless of your mother's inclusion in the deed. I suggest that you verify the deed to corroborate this fact.
4. Your father's creditors can compel his estate to be divided amongst his heirs, and compel the heirs to accept their inclusion within the estate, in order to collect from the heirs, as their are liable personally for inherited debts.
5. There are no such things as "liens" in Puerto Rico, but the creditors can compel the liquidation of all assetts in order to collect the debts.
As always, it is wise to consult local legal counsel in order to determine what your options are as an heir to your father's estate.
Lcdo. Christian M. Frank Fas
Attorney at Law | Abogado
Christian M. Frank Fas Law Offices
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