Statement of Policy Regarding Communications in Connection with Collection of a Decedent’s Debt, Project No. P104806
In researching Fair Debt Collection Practices, I came across a website that alleged that the FTC was seeking to allow debt collectors to avoid the lengthy process involved with the collection from a deceased persons estate and that it allowed creditors to inappropriately contact grieving survivors. Since one persons's interpretation of a writing may be different than another, I read the proposed change in its entirely as presented by the PDF in this page to verify or disprove this claim. I am deeply concerned about the policy to be enacted and do concur that it inappropriately allows creditors to sidestep the judicial process designed to handle these matters, and opens the door for inappropriate contact with bereaved friends, relatives or lessor individuals known to the deceased. I am surprised by this ruling and request that it not go forth as written. Creditors should be required to go through the probate process and court processes as outlined in Section II Resolution of Estates. The pretext for this change that debt collectors are inadvertently causing grief by not being sure about who they are allowed to contact and thus that this change is necessary to protect consumers does not hold up to inspection. If that were the issue, the clarifying rule that should be created is that debt collectors are not allowed to contact anyone regarding the estate of a deceased unless they go through the probate process as required by law and receive permission through the courts or as required by law to contact the person responsible for estate administration. In addition, any person responsible for estate administration should have the protections from direct contact, or contact not initiated through normal probate channels unless so ordered or agreed to through a court motion without having to notify the debt collector. In essence, the collector should travel through normal probate channels first, before contacting any estate administrator. If both the Estate administrator and debt collector desire to handle the matter this way after estate court filings, then a statute can be written so that they have the option of a simple court filing that the probate judge can sign off on. If the estate administrator is administrating the estate in one of the small estate methods that allows the estate administrator to pay debts directly, then the creditor should be allowed to petition the court for the information of the administrator and permission to contact as applicable in the myriad of state laws through normal established channels. The creditor should NOT be allowed, as this policy allows, to call anyone they can justify to discuss the decedents debt. If the administrator cannot be found, the debt collector should have the option to petition the courts for relief. As we live in a country where debt does not follow beyond the decedents estate, and for good reason when compared to the economic and civil impact noted in countries where debt is inherited, the way this policy is written appears to weaken the protection from debt collection that death affords. Despite the vague assurances that collectors must follow the Fair Debt Collection Act in it's application of this policy, debt collectors are known to stretch or violate the act and consumers may not understand their rights. To extend the stated privilege to debt collectors will open up the path for abusive/innapropriate contact with surviving individuals and remove or weaken the protections that individuals perceive they have from the FTC. In essence, this policy appears, even if it is not intended so, to be written to support debt collectors and remove support from those collectors might contact, when instead, FTC Fair Debt Collection enforcement policies should strengthen protection for the consumer and especially anyone that might be contacted in search of the consumer. I hereby respectfully request the policy not be enacted as written and be heavily reconsidered in its direction.