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Dealing with a Deceased Loved One's Debt Collectors

Posted by Nina Whitehurst | Dec 02, 2020 | 0 Comments


The last thing anyone wants after the death of a family member is calls from debt collectors dunning the loved one's estate. While some family members can be contacted by debt collectors, the family is protected from abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices.

Usually the estate is responsible for paying any debts the deceased may have left. If the estate does not have enough money, or if the applicable statute of limitations has expired on the debts, the debts will go unpaid. A debt collector may not turn to relatives to try to collect payment (unless they were co-signers or guarantors of the debt). However, the spouse of the decedent may have responsibility for any debts on which the couple was jointly liable either by their signatures or by operation of state law.

Debt collectors are allowed to contact the personal representative (executor) of the estate, the decedent's spouse, or the decedent's parents (if the decedent was a minor) to discuss the debts. They may not discuss the debts with anyone else. The only reason debt collectors may contact other relatives or friends is to get the name of the personal representative or spouse. But they cannot say anything about the decedent's debt to those individuals or even say that they are debt collectors. When speaking with family members, debt collectors may not mislead the family into believing that the family members are responsible for the deceased person's debts. They also can't use abusive or offensive language.

Even if you are the person who is responsible for paying the estate's debts, you can request that a debt collector stop contacting you. To do this, you need to send a letter to the debt collector asking the collector not to contact you again. You should keep a copy of the letter for your records and send the letter "certified" with a return receipt. 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. Remember, the estate is still responsible for paying its valid debts to the extent that it can.

If you have a problem with a debt collector, contact your state attorney general's office or the Federal Trade Commission at


About the Author

Nina Whitehurst

Attorney at Law Nina has been practicing law for over 30 years in the areas of estate planning, real estate and business law She is currently licensed in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Tennessee. Her Martindale-Hubbell attorney rating is the highest achievable: 5 stars in peer...


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