What to do when a loved one is in debt and dies. What do we do?

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My aunt passed away in Sept. She still owed on her car, she was renting from a friend. We sent a death certificate to the bank for the car and returned the keys. They came and picked up the car. We know she was receiving Social Security check and she had credit card debt. We know she doesn't have any money. What should be done. We don't want to be responsible for her debts, but would like finalize things. Help.

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FF, some of the bottom feeders do check obituaries (which is why I don't intend to have one) as well as new probate filings - anything of public record. They also check foreclosure notices (also published and of public record), then contact the struggling homeowners and offer cheap buy-outs. They prey on people's emotions, especially those undergoing foreclosure.

When my sister's house was in foreclosure after her death, I kept track of the number of unsolicited "offers" to list or buy out. It was either in the 30s or 40s. And there were solicitations from bankruptcy attorneys as well.

Some were more sophisticated and sent brochures and cards. One was such a joke - a handwritten note on yellow legal cap. After blocking my number, I called her just to see what kind of person would even think she had a chance when she was so unprofessional about solicitation. She told me she couldn't talk because she had cookies in the oven and then had to pick up her son.

At least I got a few chuckles out of this would-be flipper.
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In some states, a creditor can go to the Probate Court and file to open an estate case, so they can collect their money due, however, if there are no funds or assets to collect from, it's a waste of their time.
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I wonder if some of these fly by night collection agencies check the local obituaries in the news papers. Why I am curious about is because neither of my parents had their obituaries in the newspaper, and the funeral home website wrote very little information.... thus, not one call.
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I'd get a legal opinion. You may have no obligation to do anything if she had no Will to probate or if there is nothing to pass on to heirs. If the debts are not in your name, I can't imagine why you would be responsible.
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Susan, your experience is one of the reasons I suggest people read the FDCPA so they know their rights, whether as a debtor or not. And it's also a factor in highly recommending all contact be in writing and everything be documented.

If the collection agency continues to harass, you have a timeline which can support action if the attorneys general of states involved decide to go after these money hounds. If not, it's just your word vs. theirs.

And I've found from experience that they lie. And I'm sure they alter the recordings b/c some have continued to call even after I've advised them they have the wrong number, yet they deny having that information in their files and have alleged things I've never said.

Also, for anyone who does challenge the debt in writing, be sure to ask for a copy of the judgment and any assignment to another collector. The FDCPA allows that.
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Definitely document everything, as mentioned above. I am still dealing with this myself, and Mom has been gone for a little over 6 months now. (Boy, that's hard to believe. Seems like yesterday and I should still be able to go see her in the NH....)

Within 10 days after her death, I received a letter from some company with something like "estate settlement" in the name. I opened and read the letter, and it appeared they were trying to get me to call them to settle mom's estate, and that they would assist with it. Out of curiosity, I called them. Ha! They are NOT an estate settlement assistance - they are a debt collector. They were trying to get payment on one of her credit cards - 10 days after her death. They kept saying that *I* was not personally responsible for the debt, but would I like to set up a payment plan?? I kept repeating to them that there was NO money - the estate was so small as to be almost non-existent - so a payment plan was not possible. They just kept asking the same thing. After several phone calls and letters, they finally stopped harrassing me. I've never seen anything like that - ever. It was extremely upsetting and frustrating.
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I can not agree with GardenArtist more! The sleazy scum at the credit card companies will hound you and outright lie to you trying to make you think you are responsible for the debt - unless you are a joint account holder in the credit card- you are not responsible for the debt - not one penny of it. After my mother-in-law died hubby and I were going crazy with the phone calls and letters trying to bully us into paying off her debts - and hubby didn't even have much contact with his mom in years so how we got so lucky that the creditors got our phone number is beyond me! Anyhooo - try as he did - explaining that MIL had passed away, the calls kept coming. After a while hubby would say "here, let me give you her forwarding address and phone number" - and he'd give them the information for the cemetery where MIL was buried.
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Not to challenge Jessie or Eyerishlass, whose advice is wise and solid, I would contact all creditors in writing, send by certified mail, and DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.

Creditors can be predators (no pun or rhyme intended) and like wild predators will turn on you if they sense you're a potential prey. Then they'll hassle and hound you.

This is also why you should familiarize yourself with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act so you know your rights and don't become a target for the credit card holders. Just google FDCPA and check out the hits.

Was there a will? If so, who's the Personal Rep or Executrix/tor (as they're called in some states)? You should work together with this individual.

With no funds, the Estate is what's known as "judgment proof" - no assets and no funds.
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Make what JessieBelle said your mantra..... "there is no estate to probate".

If really truly no $, no assets, there is nothing to be done. And you have no responsibility to any of her debtors.
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You can stop her mail by going to the USPS website. There's a link to check if you're stopping mail for someone who's deceased.

JessieBelle's correct in that you aren't responsible for your aunt's debt. When you do call her creditors to inform them of her death get the information you need and then request that they not call you because once you call them they will have YOUR phone number and you will become the contact person for that account. And her creditors will start calling YOU. If you request that they not contact you they won't. I found this out the hard way when I called my dad's creditors after he died.
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