How to Phrase a No-Asset Letter After Death

By Natalie Smith ; Updated June 15, 2017
writing

Making the final arrangements after a loved one's death is one of the most unpleasant tasks. At a time when you are least emotionally capable of planning and making decisions, you must not only plan a funeral but also deal with all of the person's loose ends, including disposing of his or her assets and dealing with creditors. The situation becomes more dire if the deceased had no assets or life insurance, because creditors still require repayment even after the debtor has passed on.

Consult with your lawyer and find out if you can be held responsible for the deceased persons's debts. Only spouses can be held responsible, and then only to a limited extent. State laws have a large impact on who is responsible for a debt.

Type your address and skip a line for the beginning of the letter. Type the full date and skip another line. Type the creditor's business name and address on separate lines. Start the letter by typing "Dear Sir or Madam" followed by a colon.

Begin the first paragraph by introducing yourself to the creditor. Explain your role in the deceased's estate, that you are the executor of the deceased's will and you are going through the bills. If you are not the executor of the will, you do not have to contact any creditors; that is the role of the executor. For example, write "My name is (name) and I am (name of deceased)'s widow. I am sorting though the bills left behind in an effort to resolve these bills and close the accounts."

Identify the deceased's account number and the amount owed. Then, tell the creditor that the deceased left behind no assets to liquidate that will cover this bill. For instance, "The account number in question is (number) and the last bill is dated (date) for an amount of (amount)."

Tell the creditor not to contact you if you are not legally responsible for the debt. The creditor can attempt to collect the debt while the will, if any, is in the probate process. Do not provide your telephone number unless you want the creditor to contact you by phone; even with this no-asset letter the creditor will have a representative contact you to collect the debt. For instance, "(Deceased) has passed away leaving no assets behind. I apologize for the inconvenience, but there is no money or assets to liquidate to pay this debt. Please do not contact me in regard to this matter; I am not responsible for this debt because (give reason)."

If you are responsible for the debts, ask your lawyer what your options are for dealing with the debt and act accordingly. If the lawyer advises you to attempt to negotiate a settlement on the debt, you can begin the process by asking the creditor to settle the account. Provide your telephone number if you would like a representative to call you in regard to the debt but be aware that the creditor might take advantage of this and make harassing phone calls in an attempt to collect on the debt. Hold on to the letter and do not send it until you have consulted with a lawyer. The lawyer will either handle the correspondence for you or will tell you what specifically you must write in this case.

Type "Sincerely," and skip three line spaces. Type your name. Print the letter and sign in the space above your typed name. Make a copy for your records.

Mail the letter with signature confirmation so you have verification of receipt.

About the Author

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.