Are Family Members Liable for Probate Debts?

When someone passes away, it obviously can be a very difficult time. You may have so many things to worry about that any task can seem like it requires enormous effort. One of the last things that you want is calls from any debt collectors attempting to collect from your loved one’s estate. Although certain family members may be contacted by debt collectors, typically the family is guarded from any unfair or deceptive practices.

Whenever an estate is opened, the estate is usually responsible for paying any of the debts that the deceased person may have had. The person appointed personal representative acts to handle the affairs of the deceased person. Upon paying all of the debts out of the estate, the remaining assets are then distributed according to the will or according to Tennessee’s intestate statutes if there was not a will. However, if the estate does not have enough funds to pay off the debt, the debts of the deceased could go unpaid. If there was a cosigner or guarantor of the debt, they may be contacted to pay off the debt. In addition, if any debts were jointly held with a spouse, they too may be contacted to pay off the debt. Otherwise, debts may go unpaid leaving debt collectors who may try to recover from whomever.

Debt collectors are allowed to contact only certain people to discuss the debts. Those people may include the personal representative of the estate, the decedent’s spouse, or the decedent’s parents if the decedent was a minor. Debt collectors are not allowed to discuss the debt with anyone else. The only reason debt collectors may contact other family members is to acquire the name of the personal representative or the spouse. However, the collectors may not say anything else to other family members or even state that they are indeed debt collectors. In addition, debt collectors are not allowed to mislead the family into believing that they are responsible for the debts of the deceased. Also, debt collectors are not allowed to use either abusive or offensive language.

Although administering an estate can sometimes cause headaches, improper debt collection should never add further trouble. The important thing to note is that you likely are not liable for any probate debt. Only those people outlined above would remain liable for the debt. If you need help probating an estate in Tennessee, be sure to contact The Higgins Firm. We would be happy to help you and your family in your time of need.



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