Skip to Content Top

Debt collection companies must prove debt is legitimate


Some Illinois residents who have lost a parent may face harassment by debt collectors who insist they are responsible for paying bills their parent left behind. While collection agencies may have little or no information about the debt they are trying to collect, their actions still may damage the offspring's credit rating.

Many older Americans spend their later years in nursing homes, and on occasion, the nursing home will bill the elderly person's offspring when they die. There are some legitimate reasons for this and some that are questionable. If the person's next-of-kin signed that they would be responsible for the bill, then the nursing home would be entitled to payment. If they did not assume responsibility for their parent's debt, the children owe nothing.

The nursing home may turn the matter over to a debt collection company, and this may result in harassment of family members. Financial planners recommend sending a letter to the debt collectors asking them for verification that the debt is owed. If there is no response within 45 days, send a second letter, return receipt requested, informing them of their error and ask they not make contact again. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, they are prohibited from making further contact and, if they do, they may be reported to the Federal Trade Commission. Sending a copy to the creditor and asking them to refrain from selling the unwarranted debt to another collection company is advised.

If the children agreed to be responsible for their parent's debt and paying this debt puts an undue financial burden on them, an attorney may offer insight into options, such as bankruptcy, that may be available to them. There are qualification requirements for both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 that the attorney will explain.

Source: Fox Business, " Nursing Home Nags Heir in Debt Collection", Steve Bucci, July 07, 2014