Following the death of a loved one, debt collection calls can add insult to injury. Not only must you be reminded of your loved one’s passing but also, you must deal with the stress of trying to figure out how to pay off a debt you did not plan for … Or do you? According to FindLaw, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from engaging in unfair, abusive or deceptive practices when attempting to collect unpaid balances. This protection extends to the surviving family members of debtors. 

Generally speaking, the deceased’s estate must cover unpaid balances. However, if the estate does not have enough money or assets, the debts will likely go unpaid. Surviving family members generally do not have to step up and pay what the estate could not. However, there is an exception for spouses. Spouses in several states must assume financial liability for outstanding dues, though several states do offer protections. FindLaw recommends talking to an experienced attorney who can advise you of your legal obligations. 

If a debt collector does contact you regarding a deceased loved one’s debt, give the agency the contact information of the decedent’s personal representative. This is the person who is responsible for settling the deceased’s estate and affairs, including satisfying monetary obligations. If the deceased has a will, the personal representative is the executor. If the deceased does not have a will, give the collection agency the name and contact information of the administrator. 

FindLaw advises you against giving a debt collector any of your own personal information. This includes your birth date, Social Security number or banking account information.