Whether you’re expecting the death of your loved one or not, your grief is going to be your main concern. The financial stress of dealing with the deceased person’s outstanding bills is something you shouldn’t have to worry about.
A really big aspect of elder law is making sure people understand their rights, as well as their responsibilities. There are a lot of factors that weigh into how credit should be handled, including whether or not the debt was their sole responsibility in life, or a shared debt.
Occasionally, finding all of the deceased person’s accounts may be difficult, especially if you weren’t living with them. Tips for how to locate their accounts include:
- Be sure to be checking the person’s dresser drawers, desk, and wallet
- Having their mail forwarded
- Accessing any email accounts
Elder Law Financial Tips for Notifying the Creditors
After a person dies, the Personal Representative (formerly known as Executor) is the person that should be contacting all of the creditors, banks, and billing companies. If the responsibility is yours, gather all bills, call the companies, inform them of the death, and send a copy of the certified death certificate to each of them. Do not promise any payments—refer them to your elder law lawyer or the executor of the estate.
Elder Law Financial Tips on Determining Credit Responsibility
In Massachusetts, debt belongs only to the person(s) who created the debt such as a medical bill, loan or credit card charge. If the debt was only in the name of the deceased, then the estate may be expected to pay as much of the debt as possible, but the family is not responsible. What does this mean? The Creditor must file a claim against the estate of the deceased person with the probate court within one year from the person’s date of death. The property of the deceased person may be used toward paying off bills and debts, until the debts are paid, or the estate is insolvent.
It’s also important to note that not all assets are considered part of the estate. When trying to determine whether or not you are responsible for a debt, if a collector tries to pin it on you, ask the following things of your elder law lawyer:
- Is it a valid debt?
- Are the creditors within their statute of limitations?
- Are you at all liable for this debt?
It’s come out frequently that creditors will often make very inventive lies to get people to pay debt that the heirs are not responsible for. If you are being contacted by creditors after a loved one’s death, contact your elder law lawyer for elder law financial tips and assistance.