While the debts of a deceased relative remain valid, collectors cannot force you to pay — unless you were a signatory on said debts.
In other words, if it was a joint account, or you were married to the person and live in a community property state, you might find yourself responsible to pay.
The other instance in which you could be held responsible is if you’re the executor of the person’s will and failed to comply with your state’s probate laws dealing with the debt of a deceased relative.
They Don’t Go Away Though
Regardless of who’s responsible, the debt won’t die with them. It becomes the responsibility of the estate they leave behind. In other words, their assets will be used to satisfy their financial obligations before they’re distributed according to the provisions of the will. Everything’s copacetic if there’s enough money in the estate to cover them. Otherwise, payments will be divided among the creditors based upon the total amount available.
Who Pays Then?
When a person dies with a will, the individual named as executor of the will is called upon to ensure creditors are made whole — as much as possible. If the person dies without a will, the court may appoint an administrator, personal representative, or a universal successor and give them the authority to settle the affairs.
How to Deal With Debt Collectors
The first thing to ascertain is if you’re the person with whom the debt collector should be speaking. The only people they can call upon are a spouse, a parent or a guardian (If the debtor was a minor child), the executor, or the administrator of the estate. You are well within your rights to tell them to leave you alone if you do not fall into one of those categories.
That said, they can contact you to find out if you know with whom they should be talking. However, they are limited to a single conversation with you in order to ascertain that information. The only question they can ask of you is to whom they should be talking. The law prohibits them from getting into the details of the debt with you — unless you’re the person charged with settling the estate.
If you fall into one of the categories of individuals to whom personal responsibility for the deceased person’s credit card debt can fall, you also have the option of implementing some form of credit card debt relief. But make sure the collector is within their rights before you take ownership of the debt.
Collectors Must Obey The Law
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act still applies, even in the event of a deceased relative’s debt. This means creditors cannot lie to you about any aspect of the debt and they must observe certain decorum when communicating with you.
Moreover, you have the right to tell them to leave you alone. Simply send a letter stating you want them to refrain from contacting you. Keep in mind though, that won’t make it go away if you’re legally responsible for the debt. It’ll just stop your phone from ringing. As long as the debt falls within the statute of limitations they have the right to pursue a settlement in court.
Dealing with the debt of deceased relatives can be a rather difficult task. It’s bad enough you’ll be grieving the loss of a loved one, but then you’ll have people calling you who don’t really care how you feel — they’ll just want the money. Seeking the assistance of an attorney can also be a good move if it gets to be too much.