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Ask the Experts: Paying a Parent's Debt

Q. My mother died recently, and I’m getting calls from a collection agency about her outstanding debt. Am I responsible for paying it?

A. In most cases, surviving children are not legally obligated to pay the debt of a deceased parent. To stop a collector from calling, write a letter to the collection agency requesting that the calls cease. Send it by certified mail and ask for a return receipt. Keep a copy of the letter for your records.

If the collector continues to call, in violation of federal debt collection laws, you should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and with your state attorney general’s office.

The FTC also has a downloadable information sheet about who is responsible for a dead relative’s debts.

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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