26th Jun 2014

Personal Representative: Do I need to pay the deceased’s credit card?

When a loved one passes away settling their affairs is never easy.  This is often complicated when the decedent had outstanding debts, such as credit cards, mortgages, etc.  As a general rule, unless someone else has signed the debt obligation (co-signor or guarantor) , no one other than the decedent is legally obligated to repay the debt.

If no exception applies (meaning no other than the decedent is liable for the outstanding amount), then the decedent’s estate is responsible for paying the debts, to the extent the debt is validly claimed, and presented to the personal representative in a timely manner. Pursuant to Utah law, (Utah Code Ann. §75-3-801) after the personal representative publishes the notice to creditors once a week for three successive weeks – in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the decedent resided, creditors must present their claims to the personal representative within 90 days from publication, or 60 days from mailing the notice to specific creditors, then the creditors claim becomes barred.

Once a creditor notifies the personal representative of their claim, it becomes the personal representative’s responsibility to either “allow” or “disallow” these claims as filed, depending upon the sufficiency of the information pertaining to the claimed debt, the amount of assets in the estate to fulfill said debt, whether said debt was secured or unsecured, etc. If there are not sufficient assets in the decedent’s estate to cover the debts, they will go entirely or partially unpaid.

Many unscrupulous creditors and debt collectors will try to intimidate relatives into believing that they are responsible for the decedents’ debt.  If you are a relative of a deceased, but not the executor or administrator of the estate, a debt collector may contact you to get the name, address, and telephone number of the deceased person’s spouse, parent (if the deceased person was a minor), executor, or administrator.  However, you are under NO obligation to reveal any information to anyone, absent a court order.   If the collector attempts to discuss the debt with you or, in most cases, contact you more than once for information, this can be a violation of the Fair Debt Credit Practices Act, for which the debt collector could become liable to you for violation of the Act’s provisions.  Should this happen, however, you may want to inform the personal representative of the creditor’s contact in order to enable the personal representative to act on behalf of the estate as it pertains to the debt.

If you are an executor or administrator for a decedent’s estate, then creditors do have a right to contact you and discuss the deceased’s debt pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Protection Act. However, no debt collector has the right to harass you. To prevent harassment, you must send a letter to the debt collector stating that you do not want the debt collector to contact you again. Once a debt collector receives your letter, it may not contact you again except to:

  • Tell you there will be no further contact, or
  • Advise you that the collector or the creditor may take specific legal action against the estate.

The time after a loved one passes away can be emotionally difficult and logistically stressful, as family and friends sort out the remaining affairs.  If you are being harassed by a debt collector over a decedent’s death, consider contacting the attorneys at Christensen Young & Associates to discuss your situation in further detail.

 

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