Can Creditors Come After a Relative After the Death of a Relative?

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The only sure things in life are death and taxes. However, in some cases, a person will face taxes during death, too. This is because people are generally liable for back taxes, as well as certain other kind of debts, even after they have died. After a person has passed, creditors can attempt to collect on their debts from a person's estate. However, unless a relative co-signed on the debt, creditors cannot attempt to collect from next of kin.

Debts

  • Under U.S. law, when a person takes on a debt, he is the only person legally liable for it. Creditors are not allowed to attempt to collect from the person's relatives. However, if a relative acted as a guarantor of the loan or co-signed it, a creditor is allowed to seek payment from that individual as well. This is true whether the other party attached to the loan is dead or alive.

Debts After Death

  • Some debts are discharged after the debtor has died and he is no longer obligated to them. However, many debts, such as most medical bills and taxes owed to the federal government, are not discharged. After a debtor dies, creditors can file claims with the person charged with administering the person's estate. In most cases, creditors receive preference over next of kin when assets are parceled out, although some assets are immune from seizure by creditors.

Suing Relatives

  • After a debtor dies, the debt is not transferred to other relatives. Whether dead or alive, the only people responsible for debts are the people who incurred them. A creditor is not allowed to harass relatives in any way, whether by requesting payment of the money or by suing them in civil court. This is a violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Creditors who violate this law may face civil penalties.

Considerations

  • The situation may be legally pursued if a deceased debtor's assets are disbursed before the debts for which he is liable have been paid. If the assets were disbursed inappropriately, creditors may take action against relatives who have received these assets, claiming that they do not have a legal right to them. In such a situation, the creditors will likely file a motion in civil court and the case will be decided by a judge.

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