Losing someone is tragic enough, but being left to contend with a pile of unpaid debt is even more daunting. The question is, are you really responsible for paying off the debts of your spouse, parent, or distant relative, just because you are the next of kin?
In the United States, there exists a piece of legislation called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which aims to protect the people surviving deceased loved ones from being harassed for any outstanding debts. This came as a result of debt collectors using unfair or unethical practices to get family members to pay off loans and other such unpaid debt in the past.
In most cases, a surviving relative in St. Petersburg or elsewhere in the United States is not responsible for covering the costs of outstanding debt. While a spouse may be treated by slightly different standards, even he or she will likely be responsible for a reduced or limited financial obligation.
Despite the FDCPA, signed into law by the United States Federal Government, there are some debt collectors who have continued to take advantage of grieving families. In times of great sorrow, the unscrupulous businessmen know that people are not always doing the research necessary to determine which (if any) of the outstanding debts must be paid. Aware of this, they take advantage of the situation, lying or misleading the victims to make them believe that the debt is now the responsibility of the survivor. If you are among those victims of these unfair actions, you may be entitled to compensation.
This is such a common occurrence that it has resulted in the formation of class action lawsuits.
While most people picture a class action lawsuit as one that targets a pharmaceutical company or a large scale store chain, the truth is that any negligent party, having harmed or taken from a large number of innocent individuals, can become the defendant in a class action suit. A personal injury attorney can represent you as you seek damages for your own financial losses.
There are a couple of things that you should know before you attempt to join a class action lawsuit.
- 1. The Estate May Be Responsible. Even if your loved one gifted you everything in his or her estate, the money is not yours, generally, until all debts have been paid. It is only after the monies of the estate have been disbursed to pay outstanding bills that the remaining funds are allocated to the survivors. When there are no more funds available in the estate, but debt remains, the FDCPA comes into play.
- 2. Spousal Debt. If the debt was entered into by both parties of the marriage, then the debt will transfer, in most cases, to the surviving spouse. However, if the debt was in the name of the deceased only, the surviving spouse will, generally, be relieved of the duty to pay.
- 3. Co-Signer. If you, or another party, co-signed a loan, the surviving co-signer will likely be held responsible for the balance. If you are not the co-signer, you should not be obligated to carry that burden.
If you are uncertain whether or not you are responsible for the debt of your deceased loved one, there are attorneys in Saint Petersburg who are prepared to assist. If you have already been paying on a debt that you were not responsible for, seek the assistance of a personal injury attorney.