Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Who is Responsible for the Debt?


Nan Jensen, Famiy and Consumer Sciences

An email was sent to me awhile back regarding a question about who is responsible for a deceased relative’s debt. It was a question that I never have had to think about but one that is important to consider, especially in this economy. Certainly for families who have lost a loved one, it is the last thing that they want to deal with during this difficult time.

Surviving relatives are protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Under the law, debt collectors are prohibited from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you. If a debt collector contacts you, have them contact the decedent’s personal representative and certainly don’t give them any of your personal information.

The bottom line is that you are not legally responsible for paying a relative’s debt who is not your spouse. State probate law may limit your obligation to pay your spouse’s debt. For advice in this area, contact an attorney who is familiar with the laws in your state.

The Federal Trade Commission has developed a very helpful publication in a question and answer format about who has responsibility for a dead relative’s debts. For more information check out the FTC publication below.


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