The survivors of someone who dies are not personally responsible for the decedent’s debts. Yet debt collectors seem to be swarming the survivors to collect on bills the decedent owed, or didn’t owe.
The New York Times reported on debt collectors who focus on collecting debts of the recently departed, by fair means or foul. Collectors never mention that the survivors are not personally obligated to pay the debt. Instead, they catch people at a vulnerable moment and suggest that it would be the “right thing” to settle the debt.
Worse, fraudsters are apparently attempting to collect debts that the decedent didn’t owe, according to an article in the AARP Bulletin.
If faced with debts left behind by someone who has died, understand the applicable state law. The general principle is that the property of the decedent is responsible for the decedent’s debts. But if the estate is not sufficient to pay the debts, the heirs do not inherit the obligation.
My Bankruptcy Law Network colleague Jonathan Ginsberg points out that Georgia law provides for the exemption of a year’s support from the estate, before funds are available for payment of debt. Exercise a healthy skepticism when dealing with debt collectors in such situations.