Statement of Policy Regarding Communications in Connection with Collection of a Decedent’s Debt, Project No. P104806
In my experience as a probate paralegal, I have had to straighten out the accounting of estates in which well-meaning relatives or friends paid bills incurred by the decedent. Sometimes, after debts with statutory priority have been paid, there are not sufficient funds to repay them. Sometimes, the bill collectors are unable to provide copies of the original invoices or other substantive proof of the debt so that their claims must be rejected. Until there is a death in the family, most people have no idea of the legal procedures for the administration of an estate. Recent news stories report the predatory practices of certain law firms and collection agencies who are taking advantage of this ignorance. Currently, creditors are free to submit their written and documented claims to the court even before probate is commenced. If no one else files to open probate, the creditor, after a designated waiting period, may petition to be named personal representative. The excuse that the new leniency will save money refers to savings primarily for the bill collectors. Instead of pandering to the collection agencies, the FTC should be educating the public on how decedent's debts are to be handled.