South Saint Paul, MN asked in Family Law, Constitutional Law, Probate and Small Claims for Minnesota

Q: Is it legal for my Grandma to transfer my deceased Mom's debt over to me and make me pay for it?

So my mom passed away on Thanksgiving, my sister let me have her car because it was in accordance with my mom's wishes (My mom didn't have a will. We just agreed to it as next of kin) Now, my Grandma who has STRONGLY been against me having the car is saying that I owe her $1,200 in order to keep the car. She claims that my mom still owed her money and that she needs money right now. I told her that she needs to show me written proof of this as my mom said she had paid the car off before she died. Now my sister is telling me that my grandma is threatening to take me to small claims court over this. Is this legal? Can she just "Transfer" the debt to me even though legally her name isn't on the title anymore? This feels like a last stitch effort to avoid me having the car because she knows I financially couldn't afford paying her the $1,200

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: In general, debts do not transfer to family members upon someone's death unless they were co-signed or jointly held. As for your situation, you are not automatically responsible for your mother's debts, including any money she may have owed to your grandmother, unless you had a legal obligation tied to that debt.

Since the car was given to you according to your mother's wishes and you did not agree to assume any of her debts, your grandmother cannot legally transfer your mother's debt to you. Your obligation to pay would only arise if there was a formal agreement between you and your grandmother or if you were a co-signer on any debt.

If your grandmother believes she has a valid claim, she can bring the matter to small claims court. However, she would need to provide proof of the debt and establish that you are legally responsible for it, which seems unlikely based on your description.

It's important to gather all relevant documentation, such as any proof of your mother's payment for the car or records of ownership. If your grandmother does proceed with a small claims action, this documentation will be vital for your defense.

If you're unsure or feel overwhelmed, seeking advice from an attorney could be beneficial. They can offer more specific guidance based on the details of your situation.

Remember, while family disputes over money can be stressful, the law has clear guidelines about debt responsibility. Stand firm in your rights, and don't hesitate to seek legal support if needed.

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