My son died in early April 2013 without a will. Sufficient funds to pay his bills remained in his bank and credit union accounts, but no one could touch them. I sorted through all his bills and contacted all his creditors, informing them of the situation -- that they would indeed be paid if their bills were legitimate but that they might have to wait a few months for me to access his funds.
I finally got a court order to access his funds seven months later. In the meantime, three bills had already been sent to collection -- bills from creditors that I had previously contacted.
One bill in collection was for a major balance on a Discover credit card. By the time I got the collection notice, I had already sent a check to Discover. That problem was quickly resolved with no further problems.
Another bill in collection was for Time Warner Cable, for TV, phone, and Internet. I notified them shortly after my son died that they had to discontinue his service. They had billed him for the entire month of April, including the weeks following his death. I sent a check for a lesser amount to the collection agency with a cover letter detailing how I computed a pro-rata amount of the bill for the short part of the month before my son died. The collection agency returned the check with a letter informing me that they had returned the account back to Time Warner Cable. I never heard again from either the collection agency or Time Warner Cable.
The third bill sent to collection was for a medical group that supplies emergency room doctors to a local hospital. The explanation of benefits from my son's health insurance indicated that they had paid the medical group and that no further payment was due from my son. My further investigation revealed that, while the hospital and its emergency room were in-network for my son's health insurance, the hospital had out-sourced their emergency room doctor service to a medical group that was out-of-network for ALL insurance plans except Medicare. The medical group wanted payment for the difference between what the insurance allowed and what they billed. I wrote a letter to the collection agency (having already sent a similar letter to the medical group) informing them that the hospital chose my son's doctor and, since my son had no choice in the matter, they would have to deal with the hospital for any further payment. I also informed the the credit agency that my son's estate was not large enough to require probate and, if they insisted on payment, they would have to initiate probate at their own expense. I never heard again from either the collection agency or the medical group.
While all this was being resolved, we received several phone calls from the collection agencies. They insisted on knowing where my son was, so my wife gave them the address of his cemetery.
We also received insurance explanations of benefits indicating several medical providers were not being paid because they submitted their claims too late (more than 6 months after the dates of service). I have not heard directly from any of those providers. If they do send me a request for payment, I will reply that I am not responsible for their failure to submit timely claims. In any case, my son's estate is now "closed". All remaining funds were transferred into a blocked guardianship on behalf of my grandson. It will take a court order -- at the creditor's expense -- to unblock the accounts.
I am quite sure that my son is well beyond caring about black marks on his credit history. It seems, however, that no black marks have appeared. More than a year after his death, offers of new credit cards for large credit limits still keep arriving in the mail for him.