Protection for Heirs of the Decedent under the FDCPA
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA is a federal law which prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair or deceptive practices to collect personal, family or household debts. The FDCPA applies to a variety of debt collection practices against consumers, including the collection of a deceased parent's debts from the surviving adult children.
If a debt collector uses abusive, unfair or deceptive practices to collect a debt, they are in violation of the FDCPA. In addition, if a debt collector makes misleading representations to an heir of the decedent that he or she is legally responsible to pay the deceased personís debt when they are not, the debt collector has violated federal law. The Federal Trade Commission is the consumer protection agency charged with enforcing the FDCPA. If you believe a collection agency, debt buyer or collections attorney has acted in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, visit the FTC website for more information.
Note: The laws of your state may be different than the FDCPA. State law information may be available from your state attorney generalís website. Contact an attorney to learn your rights under applicable state laws.
Harassment by Creditors for Deceased Parentís Debts
If you have been contacted by a creditor or collection agency about bills owed by your deceased parent, visit our page on Parentís Debts for an overview of how debts of a deceased parentís estate are typically handled. If you are not responsible for the debts of your deceased parent but are being harassed by debt collectors even after telling them to contact the executor or administrator of your parentís estate, there are several steps you can take to protect your credit and stop the harassing phone calls and letters.
Basic Rules to Follow When Contacted by a Debt Collector
If you are contacted by a debt collector about bills or other financial obligations of your deceased parentís estate:
1. Never give your name, address, social security number, spouseís name or other personal data to anyone who calls you and claims to be a creditor of your deceased parent or the estate. Identity thieves often use obituaries and probate records as a source of information to defraud heirs of the estate.
2. Ask the caller for his or her name, phone number, company name, and mailing address.
3. Notify the debt collector that all claims against the estate should be submitted directly to the executor or administrator of the estate as part of the probate or estate administration process.
4. Forward the debt collectorís contact information to the executor or administrator of your parentís estate.
5. Do not attempt to negotiate your deceased parentís debt, enter into a settlement with the creditor, make partial payment or accept responsibility for the debt, unless you are the executor or administrator of the estate and have consulted a probate lawyer about how to properly administer the estate.
6. Contact an attorney for information on applicable state law and advice on your unique circumstances.
7. If the debt collector continues to harass you, file a complaint with your state attorney generalís office and the Federal Trade Commission.
Note, the information on this page is only meant to address situations in which the adult children of a decedent are being targeted by collection agencies for their deceased parentís debts. It is not intended to address how to handle other types of debt collection activities.
Free Form Letter to Send to Debt Collectors
If you are being contacted repeatedly by collection agencies attempting to collect your deceased parent's debts, review the tips for writing a letter to debt collectors and a free form letter on our Form Letter to Collectors page.