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Take It To Your Grave

, , , , , , , | Legal | June 18, 2021

I had a client come into my office to deal with her brother’s estate. Her brother, unmarried and childless, had known he was terminal for almost a year before he died. He chose to spend that year applying for as many credit cards as he could and maxing them all out. Amazingly, he got credit cards for four major banks and managed to rack up more than $50,000.00 in debt before he died. He had maybe $10,000.00 in savings that he had kept as a cushion to make sure the debt collectors didn’t come after him until it was too late.

The first thing I did was assure the sister that no one was responsible for her brother’s debts except his estate. After that, I gave her the options.

Option A was the technically correct way to handle the estate: contact all the banks, get them to agree to take a ratable percentage of the remaining assets, and pay them out. This could take months and would cost a lot of money.

Option B was not technically the correct way to handle it but it was easier: contact the banks, tell them that the sister had resigned as estate trustee and no one was replacing her, and ask them not to contact her.

She obviously went with Option B. With no one in charge of the estate, the banks couldn’t even attempt to collect on the debt, and there was no way to go through legal channels to collect the money that would not cost ten times the money owed.

Do I have sympathy for the banks? Nope.

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