Who pays the bills?

If your loved one has recently died, he or she may still have unfulfilled debts and obligations in Michigan. According to the Federal Trade Commission, these do not automatically pass to you, even though you are an heir or beneficiary. Not only that, you should not assume that you must use money from your family member’s accounts to pay the bills, and although there are some exceptions, such as joint debts, you typically also should not pay any debts with your own money.

When there is a will or trust, the executor named by the deceased is responsible for taking care of all the debts out of the money or assets in the estate during probate. Without a will, the court takes over the probate process and chooses someone to settle your family member’s affairs. This personal representative or administrator is authorized to speak to and resolve issues with debt collectors and others who are seeking payment from the estate.

In some cases, creditors may call and try to discuss a loan or obligation with you. However, unless you are the spouse, executor, administrator or guardian, this is generally illegal. As a third party, you should only be asked for contact information of the person responsible for paying the debt. No company seeking to collect payment is allowed to get in touch with you more than once for this purpose.

You can put an end to calls from a collection agency even if the debt has become your responsibility by sending a letter telling the collector not to contact you. This information is educational in nature, and should not be interpreted as legal advice.