Responsibility for a Deceased Family Member's Debt

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), surviving relatives are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased family member, except in limited instances. Surviving family members are protected as third parties from abusive or deceptive collection practices under the FDCPA, and are afforded the same rights and remedies which would be available if the deceased debtor were still alive.

If you are paying the debts of a deceased family member, or are being pressured to do so by a debt collector, you may have legal recourse. To learn more about your rights and legal options under the FDCPA, please fill out our case evaluation form.  Your claim will be reviewed by a debt harassment attorney at no cost or obligation to you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is legally obligated to pay the debt of a relative who has passed away?

Typically, the individual’s estate is responsible for the debt. However, if the estate cannot cover the debts, they will go unpaid.  

Under certain circumstances, a relative may be responsible for the debt if they co-signed the obligation or were responsible for resolving the estate and did not comply with Florida state probate laws. 

Are surviving spouses responsible for paying the debts of their loved one?

It depends. Assets acquired before marriage will not be the responsibility of the surviving spouse. If spouses enter into a debt together, the surviving spouse will only be responsible if they have signed an agreement to be held liable for their husband or wife’s debt. In most instances in Florida, the debt of each spouse is their own and not the responsibility of the other.  

Do I have to pay for my deceased parent’s debt?

Children are not typically responsible for the payment of their deceased parents’ debts. Repayment may be a child’s obligation only if they co-signed an account or loan with a parent. The deceased’s estate is responsible for repayment of debts. Once the estate is no longer a viable resource, the creditors may not contact you for collection. They will not receive the remainder of the amount owed to them under the deceased’s contract.

What should I do if I’ve been contacted by a debt collector attempting to collect a debt of a relative who has died? 

Provide the debt collector with the contact information of the deceased’s personal representative, who is responsible for settling their affairs, including the payment of any outstanding debts. If there is a will, the personal representative is the executor. If a will does not exist, the personal representative is the administrator.

Do I have to speak with a debt collector about a deceased relative’s debt? 

No. However, if you are the deceased relative’s personal representative or otherwise legally obligated to pay the debt, you should speak with the debt collector to find a way to resolve the matter. 

Can I stop a debt collector from contacting me about the debts of a deceased family member? 

Yes. To do so, write them a letter asking them to cease contact; photocopy the letter; send the original copy via certified mail; and pay for a return receipt so you can have documentation that the debt collector received the letter. After the debt collector has received the letter, they may not contact you unless they are calling to say there will be no further contact or to inform you of a specific legal action. While the debt collector cannot contact you after the letter has been received, they are still able to sue the estate of your relative or the person legally obligated to collect the debt. 

Can debt collectors inform others about my deceased relative’s debt? 

Generally, a debt collector cannot disclose your family member’s debt to anyone other than the decedent’s spouse, guardian or parent (if the relative is a minor) other than to obtain the personal representative’s location.

If you are paying a deceased loved one’s debts, or are being coerced by a collection agency to do so, you may have recourse through FDCPA regulations. To learn how our debt harassment attorneys may be able to help you, please fill out our no cost case review form today.