Debts Also Die

You would not know it from some bill collectors who hound people even 10 years after the debt was due, but nearly all debts die of old age eventually. Legally, it is called a “statute of limitations,” which means that after a certain number of years the courts will not enforce the debt.

If a creditor cannot go to court to collect a debt, is it still a debt? Interesting question, but irrelevant. If you don’t have to pay, you don’t have to pay, and sometimes this comes into play in estates.

Sometimes the executor of an Estate can ignore an old debt, because the Florida limitations period (usually four or five years, but not always) has expired. But that works both ways- an estate cannot collect on a promissory note made out to the deceased person if too many years have passed.

We have even seen heirs worry about accepting their inheritance because of an old credit card debt. The bill collector was still calling after 10 years, even though no payments had ever been made, but the heir they were calling could have stopped worrying five years ago. She had no reason to turn away the inheritance because the credit card company could not sue her now.

Legal advice should be sought on any serious question involving a statute of limitations. The law can be complicated, and it is unwise to rely just upon the wording in the statute.