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Laws shield surviving family members from abusive debt collection

Many Ohio residents have estate plans in place that determine what will happen to their assets after their passing. However, some forget to consider what will happen to their debts. Although the Federal Trade Commission prohibits debt collectors from holding family members personally responsible for the debts of deceased family members, some still try. This can become harassment, and abusive debt collection can be reported.

Federal laws also protect family members who live in the house of a homeowner who dies. As long as the mortgage payments are made, the bank will not foreclose. The same goes for automobiles on which the payments are kept up to date, although the laws are slightly different. Credit card debt can be complicated -- if the card belonged solely to the deceased, the debt should be handled by the estate. However, if a spouse or another person was a co-signer on a joint account, he or she may be responsible for the credit card debt.

If a valid will exists, the executor will settle the financial affairs. However, if a person dies without a will, the state will appoint someone to handle it. That person will typically see that secured debts, such as auto loans and mortgages, are paid before unsecured debts, like medical bills and credit cards. Any money left over after debts are paid will go to the heirs.

Laws about abusive debt collection after a debtor's death, and also those related to mortgages, car loans and other debts in Ohio may differ from those of other states. In fact, some of the laws can be confusing. Clarity and answers can be obtained from a skilled attorney who is experienced in all matters related to debts of a deceased family member.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Here's what happens to your debt after you die", Sarah Skidmore Sell, Oct. 12, 2016

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