As part of the probate or trust administration process, the decedent’s debts must be addressed. If there are debt collectors involved, this can be the worst part of the administration process. Although it would be nice, debts do not go away when the debtor passes away. Debts must be paid from the decedent’s estate, if there is enough money. The family members do not become personally responsible for the debt unless a family member co-signed for the debt or was the spouse of the decedent.
Creditors must comply with certain restrictions relating to the debt. Creditors can discuss the debt with the person who has authority for the deceased person, which is typically the executor or personal representative, the successor trustee, or perhaps a family member such as a spouse or parent. The debt collectors must comply with the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and they are prohibited from using abusive or deceptive practices in their attempts to collect the debt. The collectors cannot pressure the family to use their own funds to pay the debt, and may not imply that the family must personally pay this liability.
It is always important to verify a debt of a decedent prior to payment. You may request proof of the debt and details regarding the debt owed. You should always ensure that the debt is actually owed prior to making any payments from the decedent’s estate. If a formal probate estate is open, you should always consult with your attorney prior to paying any debt, especially in the case of an insolvent estate to ensure that debts of a higher priority (like taxes) are paid first.
* The information contained in this Blog is intended for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion of counsel.