31 Aug Can I Be Responsible For My Uncle’s Debts?
Can you be held liable for a relative’s debt? I received the following question from a visitor to my Atlanta Bankruptcy blog that raised this question:
I have a quick question. My uncle has ran up about $10,000 in credit card bills and never intended to pay them. The creditors are starting to call relatives for money. I know thats a joke. But he thinks that credit card companys can’t do anything to him. I sure the state of SC doesn’t have a law protecting him, right?
The simple answer to the question about any responsibility on the part of your relatives is question is “no.” You cannot be held liable for your uncle’s debts unless you co-signed or guaranteed those debts.
Your uncle, however, can be sued by the credit card company for non-payment. If a judgment is rendered, his wages may be garnished, his bank account seized and his real estate liened.
If bill collectors are calling you and other relatives, your uncle may actually have a cause of action against the collection agencies. A federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act governs the types and nature of communications that can be made by a debt collector. If the bill collector discussed your uncle’s financial situation with you or other third parties, your uncle may be able to recover damages against the bill collector.
My colleague Jed Berliner discusses the FDCPA in an informative post on this blog. If you think that you may have a cause of action under the FDCPA, you should discuss your possible case with a lawyer knowledgeable in FDCPA litigation.
Jonathan Ginsberg, Esq.
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