Debt doesn't go away immediately if the person dies, even if the debt is solely the responsibility of the deceased. As a lender, you have a window of opportunity to collect the debt while the deceased's estate is in probate. Probate is the period during which the executor of the state takes an inventory of the deceased assets, accepts claims against the estate and divides up the assets. Act promptly to file your claim before the estate is settled.
Check if there is a cosigner on the debt. If there is, the debt is now the responsibility of that person, and you should collect it from him.
Determine who the executor of the deceased's estate is. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits discussing a debt with anyone other than the person who owes the debt, his attorney or his designated representative. For a deceased person, this means that you can only discuss the debt with the executor of his estate. You are permitted to contact the family to get the name and contact information for the executor.
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Send a claim to the executor of the estate for the debt owed. Include copies of any proof you have of the debt. Be prepared to defend your claim if the executor requests more information.
Wait for the estate to be settled. During the probate period, the executor of the estate is responsible for inventorying the estate's assets, collecting all debts owed to the estate and paying out all claims against the estate before distributing the assets to heirs. At the end of the probate period, you should receive payment on your claim, if the estate has enough funds to cover it. If the estate is not large enough to cover all debts, the executor will determine which debts get paid. Taxes and secured debts are prioritized over non-secured debt, such as credit card balances. There is a chance that estate will not pay the debt to you at all or may pay only part of what you are owed.
Kaylee Finn began writing professionally for various websites in 2009, primarily contributing articles covering topics in business personal finance. She brings expertise in the areas of taxes, student loans and debt management to her writing. She received her Bachelor of Science in system dynamics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.