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Earlier this week, our Miami bankruptcy law blog discussed the Federal Trade Commission’s recent publication regarding the collection practices of a deceased individual’s debt. The FTC reported that the agency will not go after companies who attempt to collect on a deceased individual’s debt as long as the company only speaks with individuals who are authorized to make payments from the estate of the deceased.

When an individual dies, his or her debt does not disappear. Although debt collections agencies are prohibited from harassing creditors and making relatives believe that they are responsible for paying off the debt of a loved one who has passed away, there are some circumstances when a collector can request payment from a specific individual or family member of the deceased.

If the deceased individual had a co-signer on the debt, the co-signer is then legally responsible to resume making payments. Under certain state laws, a spouse may also be required to pay certain debts such as health care expenses.

If debt collectors cannot get in contact with the appropriate individuals, debt collectors can call or write to other relatives only once in order to get the correct contact information of those who are authorized to make payments from the estate of the deceased or the spouse of the deceased. Collectors also can only ask for the name, address and number of the person they are attempting to reach.

If you have been contacted by a creditor regarding the unpaid debts of a loved one who has passed away, you may be able to request that the collector never contact you again. In order to do so, you must send a certified letter to the agency.

In some cases, a co-signer or spouse of the deceased may be required to pay a debt that he or she cannot afford. Instead of ignoring collections calls regarding the debt, the individual may want to consider speaking with a bankruptcy attorney in order to find a solution to his or her financial troubles.

Source: Federal Trade Commission: “Paying the Debts of a Deceased Relative: Who Is Responsible?” July 1, 2011