California Probate Lawyer
When a loved one passes away, those left behind are usually conscious of the physical possessions and the money that will need to be distributed, even as their attention remains almost entirely on the process of mourning their loved one. This is understandable, as there are practical realities that must be addressed in the wake of a loved one’s death. For example, if the deceased was in debt at the time of their passing, loved ones may be left wondering, where does the debt go? Who is responsible for paying outstanding balances? Generally speaking, if your loved one passed away while in debt, it is a good idea to speak with an experienced California probate lawyer from the Yee Law Group. Our team can explain how your loved one’s death will be addressed under California law and how the probate process may affect debt-related obligations.
After an individual’s death, his or her assets and finances are distributed. This process may be managed by an administrator that is named by the will of the deceased. If there is not a will or an administrator is not appointed, then the courts will take over the estate. This is a process known as probate. There are times when the probate process is mandatory or can be requested, even when an individual had an estate plan in place at the time of their death. An experienced probate lawyer Roseville, CA residents trust can explain whether probate is mandatory or otherwise appropriate in regards to the estate of a recently deceased loved one. During this process, which can take anywhere between a few months and more than a year, the following occurs:
- Validity of a will is confirmed
- Property is transferred
- Financial responsibilities are assigned
Once an individual has passed away, they are no longer able to pay their creditors. However, that does not mean that the creditors will stop attempting to collect on outstanding debt. If you are a joint owner on any accounts, you are likely still fully responsible for this debt. This includes a credit account or a loan such as for a car or a mortgage. The loan fully transfers to your name and will remain a part of your credit, good or bad.
There are many cases in which there was no cosigner associated with a debt and therefore deceased was the only person on the debt. Generally speaking, the debt dies with a single debt holder. Yet, that does not always stop creditors from attempting to get paid. Typically, assets of the estate are sold to pay for what remains of the debt. If the amount raised from the sales does not cover the debt, the remaining balance is often written off. However, it is important to speak with an experienced California probate lawyer before making any assumptions about whether your loved one’s debt must be paid off or not. Seeking legal guidance now could save you a great deal of money overall.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency responsible for consumer protection, family members are not generally responsible for the remaining debt. They do not need to sell their assets in order to pay the debts. Most certainly, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) makes it illegal to use abusive, unfair or deceptive techniques to collect a debt.
Fair Debt Collection
Under the FDCPA, debt collectors have the right to obtain information from third parties in an attempt to get a debt paid. They are legally allowed to call the deceased’s spouse, parent/guardian, executor or administrator to acquire the name, address, and telephone number of someone who has repayment authority. They are only allowed to call once, unless they have a reason to believe that the initial information given was false.
Collectors cannot say anything about the debt to the third party, just make an attempt to retain contact information. However, even if you are legally authorized to pay a debt, you still have the right to stop creditors from calling you. Simply write a letter to the creditor letting them know that they are not allowed to call you anymore. A telephone call is not enough; the request must be in writing to maintain a paper trail. Keep a copy for yourself and pay for a “return receipt” so you can document precisely when the creditor received the letter. After the receipt, the creditor may only make one phone call to you, and that is simply to verify that you will receive no more calls from them.
If you are being harassed by creditors for repayment of a debt under someone who is deceased, you can file a complaint with the state attorney general’s office. You may also want assistance in deciding what you are responsible for and what is covered by the estate. An experienced California probate lawyer from our firm will be able to help you through this process. It is stressful enough having a loved one pass away, but to be harassed by creditors may be just too much to handle and you certainly shouldn’t have to handle this situation alone. Let us help you today.