No one enjoys opening their mailbox to find a stack of bills, or receiving continuous phone calls from a debt collector. However, these scenarios become even more burdensome and stressful when they pertain to debts owed by a deceased loved one. Especially so when it involves a wrongful death. So, who is liable for these claims, and how do they get paid?
According to the Federal Trade Commission, debts do not go away when a debtor becomes deceased. The estate of the debtor is considered liable. If there is no money and no assets to be liquidated in the deceased person’s estate, the debt goes unpaid. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If a person co-signed on an obligation, or live in a community property state, then that person are liable. In some states there are also laws that specify certain types of bills, such as medical expenses, to be paid by a deceased person’s spouse. Last, if the deceased left a Last Will and Testament that designated a Personal Representative or Executor, and that person fails to probate the estate as directed, then they may be held personally responsible for a debt.
Debt collectors may continually contact a responsible party for payment, unless that person specifically asks them not to. If the responsible party does not wish to be contacted any further, he or she must send a certified letter to the creditor, preferably by certified mail with return receipt, stating the wish to not be contacted again. Once received, the creditor must cease all contact. However, it is important to keep in mind that just because the request is made to cease all contact, the debt liability reChoose Datemains. Therefore, the creditor may still file a lawsuit or take any other available collection actions.
If a person has already filed, or intends to file, a wrongful death claim, that information can be included in the letter. The creditor may agree to place a hold on collection activity for that account until the wrongful death claim is complete.
A personal injury attorney can review the debts of a deceased loved one with the family, and help determine which, if any, for the family may be liable for. These debts can be taken into consideration as a portion of compensation due in your wrongful death lawsuit.