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Your Loved One Has Died and Owes Credit Card and Other Debt - Now What?

How to Handle Collection Calls for a Deceased Person

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If your loved one has died and owes credit card and other debt, then there are specific steps that you will need to take in order to prevent harassment by your loved one's creditors and legal trouble from happening in the future. This is particularly important if the estate will not need to be probated. And even if the estate will need to be probated and all debt will be handled through the probate process, you can still use the tips described below to insure that your loved one's estate, not you, will be responsible for paying the bills.

1. Make a detailed list.

Make a detailed list of all of your loved one's known creditors, including the name, address, approximate balance and type of debt.  How will you find out about these creditors?  By reviewing your loved one's mail.

2. Contact each creditor.

Contact each of the creditors on your list and inform them of your loved one's death.  Forward an original or copy of the death certificate if requested to do so.  DO NOT give the creditor your phone number or address - instead, give them your loved one's contact information that was valid at the time of death.  Always write down the date, time and name of the person you spoke with as well as a general summary of what was discussed.

3. Inform creditors about the status of your loved one's estate.

Inform each creditor about the status of your loved one's estate - it's either in probate, ready to be probated, or won't require probate. In the former two cases, give the creditor the name, address and phone number of the attorney handling the estate. In the final case, this will most likely mean that the creditor will have to write off the debt because there is no probate estate available to pay the bills. Of course, if you or someone else cosigned on the debt, then the cosigner may become responsible for paying off the entire balance of the debt.

4. What happens if you continue to be contacted by a creditor?

If you make the mistake of giving out your information and continue to be directly contacted by a creditor and the estate is still in probate, then contact the probate attorney about what to do. If there isn't a probate estate, then contact an attorney experienced in debt collection for assistance.

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