Financial Responsibility for a Deceased Parent’s Debts

Are my spouse and I morally or legally obligated to pay off a deceased parent's debts? My father-in-law passed away a few months ago with significant indebtedness. To complicate matters, he lived and died in a foreign country and I have no idea how that government handles a situation like this. More to the point, what does the Bible have to say about it? It might ruin us to try to pay his creditors, but we don't want to be disobedient if this is what the Lord is telling us to do.

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Perhaps you can understand that there are certain details of your situation about which we simply are not qualified to comment. For example, we’re not in a position to tell you whether you would be regarded as having a legal obligation to repay your father-in-law’s debts in the foreign country where he lived and died. This is a question you may want to take up with an attorney.

The biblical aspects of the question are another matter – though even here we don’t claim to have definitive, cut-and-dried answers for you. Here are some thoughts that might be relevant.

The apostle Paul indicates that Christians do have a responsibility to care for aging parents and loved ones while they are still alive (1 Timothy 5:3-16). Nevertheless, it is far from clear whether this includes assuming their post mortem debts.

Meanwhile, we may be able to cast some light on your situation by applying a principle drawn from Ezekiel’s and Jeremiah’s discussion of a very different but tangentially related topic-namely, the moral and spiritual debt each of us owes to God. “In those days they shall say no more: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But every one shall die for his own iniquity; every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge” (Jeremiah 31:29, 30; see also Ezekiel 18:1-18). On the basis of this passage of Scripture, we might possibly conclude that there is no biblical basis whatsoever for holding a child accountable for any obligation the parent may have incurred. Then again, this could be stretching a point.

It’s possible, of course, that a Christian might elect to pay off a parent’s debts simply as an expression of love and goodwill. But that’s entirely a matter of individual choice. If your own financial situation is as tight as you’ve indicated, this probably isn’t an advisable option in your case.

For more information or another perspective on your dilemma, you may wish to contact Crown Financial Ministries at the following address: Crown Financial Ministries, 1035 Old Peachtree Road Northwest, Lawrenceville, GA 30043-3309. The phone numbers are (770) 534-1000 (local) and (800) 722-1976 (toll-free). You can email the ministry at
[email protected], and the website is
crown.org.

You can also call and discuss your question with a member of our staff if you think this might be helpful. Contact Focus on the Family’s Counseling department for a free consultation.

Resources
If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Complete Guide to Faith-Based Family Finances

The Treasure Principle

Referrals
Crown Financial Ministries

Articles
Money and Finances

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.