Debts of Deceased Loved Ones

04/05/2011

It is difficult when someone you love passes away.  If the person who died had debts, it can be even tougher.

In generaly, family members should not have to pay for a decedent's debts.  However, despite this general rule, that does not stop people (collection agencies and the like) from trying to collect from family members, especially at a time when they are vulnerable due to the loss of a loved one..

Usually a decedent's estate is responsible for paying any debts. If the estate does not have enough money, the debts simply go unpaid. People or businesses who are owed money may not collect payment from relatives (unless they were co-signers or guarantors). Further, a spouse of the decedent has responsibility for any debts that were jointly held. 

If a debt collector contacts you, give the collector the contact information for the personal representative who is handling the estate. It is the personal representative's responsibility to make sure all bills are paid. Whatever you do, do not give any personal information to debt collectors. Scam artists sometimes pose as debt collectors to prey on relatives.

If a debt collector won't stop contacting you, send a certified letter to the collector saying you do not want to be contacted again. Once the collector receives the letter, the collector can contact you only to tell you that there will be no further contact or to inform you of a lawsuit. Report any problems with debt collectors to the state's attorney general or to the Federal Trade Commission.