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Who is Responsible for a Deceased Loved One’s Debt?

Who is Responsible for a Deceased Loved One’s Debt? - The Beacon


By: Susan

Who is Responsible for a Deceased Loved One’s Debt?

Your Tri-State BBB has provided several blog posts regarding debt collection, debt relief, and other debt related topics, but a topic that has not been covered in a while is the debt of a deceased loved one. Many family members may wonder, is a deceased family member’s debt my obligation? They may also wonder in what situations they are obligated? Here is information to help.

1. According to a recent blog post by the Federal Trade Commission, we are reminded that “Debts don’t die when a debtor does.” A debt is still a legal obligation of your loved ones estate.

2. You should know that if an account was opened in both of your names or you are a co-signer, you may still be responsible for the debt. Other circumstances, such as living in a community property state or if you are the deceased person’s spouse and state laws dictate payment for items such as health care, this may also affect your situation.

3. Under the federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) collectors can contact and discuss a deceased person’s debts with that person’s spouse, parent(s) (if the deceased was a minor child), guardian, executor or administer. Also, the FTC permits contacting other persons authorized to pay debts from the deceased person’s estate.

4. If you are being contacted by a debt collector and know you are not responsible for payment of the debt, notify the collector in writing. Make copies of your letter, send it by “certified mail” and pay for a “return receipt” so you can document what information the collector received and when. Once a collector receives this information, they can no longer contact you except to confirm that there will be no further contact or to notify you that they plan to take specific action, such as filing a lawsuit to collect on the debt.

5. Even if you are responsible for the debt you can use the procedure to stop communications, as listed above, however the obligation of the debt remains.

For more information on this topic, you may wish to review the following FTC articles:

You may also wish to view the following blog written by staff from the Tri-State BBB:

For more information you can trust, visit

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Susan is Director of Media Relations for the Tri-State Better Business Bureau. She is a contributor to the blog as well as to the online News Center, found at Susan also helps to produce an annual accredited business recognition banquet.