In the mail the other day was a notice, kindly forwarded by my old law firm, from the court of a not-too-far-away jurisdiction informing me of the date of the scheduling hearing for a particular trial, being sent because I had entered my appearance. Uh, what? I entered my appearance in your court ONCE, nearly eight years ago, and that only because your probate court was (is) not administered separately. I was certain that it was just a data entry error -- probably the attorney who entered her/his appearance has a similar last name. But I really don't want my name attached to the matter for any reason, and I would like to make sure that the attorney of record gets the notices properly. After two tries, I've finally confirmed with the clerk of the court that I am not involved in the matter; they aren't sure why notice was sent to me, but it was misdirected and I can disregard it. Okay, thanks, just making sure there wasn't a mix up somewhere.
Also related to my old job, if only in a tangential way, this article
about collecting debts from dead people reminded me of many conversations with clients. Reading the article left me feeling rather ambivalent. On one hand, far be it from me to begrudge any creditor the ability to collect on a valid debt. But (and it's a big but) on the other hand: having to write off as uncollectible unsecured debts is a risk of doing business. If the lender (of goods, services or money) did not secure that debt by either collateral or by a guarantor, it was likely a business decision they made after weighing that risk. An estate is established so that all creditors can give notice of the debts and collect from the decedent's assets, to the extent that there are any. Creditors playing on the heartstrings of the grieving people left behind in order to pawn off on others the business risk that they undertook
just pisses me off. I always told the kids/spouse/etc: do not volunteer to pay that debt out of your own pocket; we will send them notice (it's only been published, after all) of the death and establishment of the estate; the creditor can then file a claim and get in line; debts will be paid using the priority of payment established by state law and pursuant to administrative court order. Absolutely do not volunteer to undertake payment personally.
I am all for honoring the debts of family...assuming there is either a solvent estate, an insolvent one making pro rata payments, or that paying out of pocket is voluntary and won't harm the payor. I had some clients who paid bills that missed the notice/tolling period, because in their minds they were valid debts. That's fine; it was a choice that everyone agreed on, and no one went hungry for it. The creditors admitted up front that they were not enforceable debts because they were not filed timely nor had any notice of them been given. Reading in that article about people who scraped together a little here and a little there over years in order to pay a debt that was not theirs? Really bothered me. The collection firm that admitted that they tell the family they have no legal obligation when they ask
? Made my stomach ache. Because the inference (for me) is that they do not say so outright otherwise, and may even imply the opposite. Maybe the collection agents were up front about the liability, but I met a lot of clients who felt badgered and harassed in similar situations...and that was long before the economy tanked.
The scene in LMB's Komarr
, in which Miles scares off Ser Amalfi, who was trying to get Ekaterin to take over Tien's debt? One of my very favorites.