Am I Responsible For My Deceased Uncle's Debt?
Am I Responsible for my deceased Uncle's Debt?
Debt does not disappear with death. Typically, the debt would be paid through a disbursement from the estate.
Last year my Uncle passed away. He had never married and had no children. He was renting an apartment when he passed and had no estate. I paid out of pocket for his funeral. He was on social security and didn't have a life insurance policy. He did have a credit card. The balance on the credit card is $10,000. I sent the bank a copy of the death certificate and thought that it was over. In the last few months, I have received daily calls from a collection agency telling me that as his last relative, I am responsible to pay his debt. How could that be possible?
I am so sorry for your loss. Before I respond to your question, I would like to state that I am not an attorney and I strongly advise you to speak with an estate attorney before making any decisions. Unfortunately, debt does not disappear with death. Typically, the debt would be paid through a disbursement from the estate. The estate includes items such as the home, assets and possessions of the deceased person. The executor of the estate is an individual who has been chosen by the deceased person or the court to handle the deceased person's affairs, including paying the debts. In this particular case, there does not appear to be a will or an estate. You would be responsible for the debt, if you co-signed for the debtor or are the deceased person's spouse. In this case, neither applies.
A debt collector can legally contact a deceased person's family member. They are limited to what they can ask. They may inquire to the name, address and telephone number of the executor or any person who is authorized to pay the debt. I can only assume that they have continued to contact you as they feel the information that you provided may be inaccurate, and since you were the one to send the death certificate, you may also be the person responsible to handle your uncle's affairs.
You have stated that the collection agency assigned to this debt is calling you daily. You are protected under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which prohibits the debt collector from harassing you. I suggest that you send a letter to the collection agency stating that the collector should not call you again. You need to send this letter to the collection agency, return receipt and keep all documents regarding this situation. By sending this letter, you are preventing the collection agency from calling you and as a result, they may escalate the case by filing a lawsuit. If they do file a lawsuit, you will have the opportunity to show the court that you are not responsible for this debt.
If the harassment continues, you should report the collection agency to your state Attorney General's office and to the Federal Trade Commission.
Best of Luck,
Kim Cole is the Education Outreach Coordinator for Navicore Solutions. Kim provides financial education workshops and seminars to communities. Readers can submit general questions relating to personal finance, credit scoring, debt management, student loans, home finance or bankruptcy which may be highlighted in the next month's edition. All identifying information will be kept anonymous.
Please send your questions via email to DearKim@navicoresolutions.org