DCM Services and probate

After my dad died, I had the unenviable task of managing his estate while working full-time and living in another state.  One task was to contact credit card companies to cancel his accounts. He had MANY credit cards open because the person who lived with him up until 2006 (2 years before his death) was stealing from him and opening lines of credit under his name. I canceled quite a few credit cards in 2006 but there were still a couple open when he died.

One credit card was with Citi. I called the number on the back of the card to let customer service know he passed away and that I was the executor of the estate. I also sent a letter re: card member death to the office in Kansas City, as instructed.  It included a copy of his death certificate and I provided them with an address to send any payment owed by him. I needed to have everything in writing for the estate records.

What I got instead was notification from a collection agency: DCM Services out of the Twin Cities.  I called them and got perhaps the coldest, meanest woman to ever walk the earth on the end of the line. She treated me like garbage even though his death record was on file; she didn’t care that he had recently passed away. She didn’t care about anything except getting the money owed to CitiCorp. I was shaking and in tears after I got off the phone with that debt collector.

Ironically, DCM Services SPECIALIZES in deceased debt collections, from their website: “probate-focused, survivor-sensitive recovery is our singular focus. Honoring long-time customers as well as their loved ones“.

Please note: As previously mentioned, I was the executor of my dad’s estate and was legally obligated to pay any debts on behalf of my father’s estate. This does not mean I paid any of his debts out of my own pocket. With that being said, not every circumstance is alike and it’s always wise to consult an attorney regarding the legal rights and obligations regarding a deceased loved one’s debts; remember that DCM Services is not looking out for your best interests.

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33 thoughts on “DCM Services and probate

  1. DCM services is a completely fraudulent company WATCH OUT if they call you after a loved one dies!!! They are happy to have you pay them thousands of dollars and in return you will get NOTHING!!!!

    • DCM Services is not FRAUDULENT, they are trying to collect on a debt. You can help pay towards a debt or not, you are under NO OBLIGATION to pay off that debt. What are expecting to get in return? Some people are just ignorant, they are hired by companies to try and get back what that person owes. Again you are under NO OBLIGATION to pay on their debt.

      • As far as I know DCM Services is not a fraudulent company but it’s not true that loved ones aren’t under any obligation to pay. I was required, as the Executor of my father’s estate and his only heir, to pay the remaining balance on his credit card. This also applies to the spouse of the deceased.

        If you want to call me ignorant, then fine. But I was the only child dealing with my dad’s death at a relatively young age while also trying to handle his Estate and work a full-time job. And when I spoke with a representative at Citi I wasn’t informed that the remaining balance owed would be transferred to a collection agency and it didn’t occur to me to ask because he never defaulted on a payment, he died. His credit card by another company was handled internally and not transferred to another agency so I had no reason to assume otherwise.

        The DCM representative’s demeanor was inexcusable and while perhaps just a bad apple out of the bunch it leads me to believe that their “survivor-sensitive recovery” is mere rhetoric.

      • They do not TELL YOU UP FRONT that you are under no obligation to pay. In most cases, they are speaking with distraught, sometimes elderly, relatives and they use typical collection bullying and harassment to get you to pay, even if you are not obligated to do so. Not fraudulent, perhaps, ethical, not in the least.

  2. The Executor has an obligation to pay the Deceased’s debts using the assets of the Decedent. The Executor is NOT personally liable for debts of the Decedent unless he/she mishandles the estate administration by, for example, paying debts out of priority order in an estate without enough money to pay all debts.

    Heirs do not inherit debt. An heir may inherit an asset subject to debt such as a house, but that is different than being personally liable.

    • I was the Executor and was therefore obligated to pay my dad’s debt as the Executor; nowhere did I say that it was out of my own pocket. This post is about how I was treated by Citi and by DCM Services while handling my dad’s estate as his Executor.

      Additionally, the Executor can be personally liable for the decedent’s debts if they were in some way contractually obligated such as a co-signor, for example. This is what Citi tried to get me to do when they asked if I wanted to put his card in my name.

      Edit: I’m not an attorney and would never presume to know/understand Estate law so anything I write in regards to this particular post is based on my experience as the Executor and based on what my then (totally awesome) attorney told me.

  3. My father passed away in January 2013 and I just received a letter from DCM. I Googled ‘dcm services,’ found this useful blog post, and figured I’d share some info that people might find helpful. Coincidentally, my dad was also a Vietnam vet (dog handler at Phan Rang AFB around ’68 – ’69). He had a few thousand dollar balance on an AMEX card when he died. He had been an AMEX customer since the late 70s — the fact that he had a few thou in debt was not unusual and I was well aware of it.

    I called AMEX when he died to inform them that he had died and to see what they wanted to do about the balance. Legally, my father has no estate — everything except his primary checking account went directly to me and bypassed probate (bank accounts => payable on death to me; 401k => I was sole beneficiary; life insurance => I was sole beneficiary). Because there was no probate, there was never an estate, therefore there are no estate assets with which to pay AMEX. The only way an estate gets created is if I claim the funds (also a few thousand dollars…would be nice to have, but I don’t need it) in my dad’s checking account. Therefore, I have zero incentive to claim my dad’s money, because 100% of it would be immediately owed to AMEX, and I really don’t care whether AMEX ever gets paid back — both legally and practically speaking, it’s not my problem (not to mention I’m generally unsympathetic to credit card companies).

    So I’ve just left my dad’s money unclaimed in his old checking account, and I have no plans to take possession of it. Because I’m perfectly happy to let no one have the money, it was in AMEX’s interest to cut a deal with me to forgive my father’s debt in return for at least SOME of the balance owed (e.g., AMEX can recover 25% of the money instead of 0%).

    Instead, AMEX has apparently handed things off to DCM, and DCM’s letter does not even specify WHY they are contacting me, only that I should contact them because I’m the executor of my father’s estate (and remember, legally speaking, my father never had an estate, therefore I’m not executor of doodley squat, so the whole thing is bunk). And the letter is so vaguely worded, I’m simply assuming it’s connected to my father’s AMEX balance. How stupid does DCM think I am that I’m going to let a debt collection agency into my life when I am under no legal obligation to pay anyone a dime? Just the fact that their letter offers no specifics is a giant red flag that has “Scam” written all over it.

    It really pains me to think how many people get fooled by these kinds of dumb ploys, but there are a lot of folks who are ignorant of estate law (myself included up until a few months ago) and end up getting drawn into the schemes of debt collectors — people’s ignorance is precisely why bogus debt collection on the deceased is such a big business. We hired an estate attorney shortly before my father passed away and he was very helpful in explaining exactly why I’m under no legal obligation to pay anything to anyone, so long as I leave my father’s old checking account alone. DCM could threaten me with prison and deportation, and I wouldn’t break a sweat because I know that they’re just pathetic, empty threats made by worthless bottom-feeders intent on scaring me and extorting money from me.

    However, I will add that my situation is probably somewhat unique in that I am an only child and I was my father’s sole beneficiary for anything and everything. Legally, that made it quite simple for his assets to pass directly to me without requiring AMEX or DCM to get involved.

    • Please accept my condolences on the passing of your father. Grief itself is almost too much to bear at times and then to add to it the messiness of handling a loved one’s affairs and one can see how easy it is to take advantage of those left behind. I’m glad you found this post and shared your DCM experience-perhaps this was kismet.

      • I have to say, I am MY’s wife and I was the one who actually dealt with DCM. After my father-in-law passed away I contacted AMEX and they informed me about DCM and that they would be contacting me. They contacted me a few months after his passing and we were able to reach a settlement for 20% of the debt which allowed us to be done with the whole business and collect the funds that my husband mentions above. I found them to be super professional and pleasant, they informed me clearly of my rights and the fact that I was not under obligation to pay these debts and they were also sympathetic to our loss. I’m sorry if others have had negative experiences, but mine was actually quite positive and now the situation is behind us.

      • So even though you were told that you were “not under obligation to pay these debts” you went ahead and paid a portion anyways? Even though My clearly stated in the previous post that an estate attorney had already been consulted and stated that “he was very helpful in explaining exactly why I’m under no legal obligation to pay anything to anyone.” Furthermore, My also added: “DCM could threaten me with prison and deportation, and I wouldn’t break a sweat because I know that they’re just pathetic, empty threats made by worthless bottom-feeders intent on scaring me and extorting money from me.”

        I call bullshit on your comment Anonymous.

      • I call BS on Anonymous’s comment also. Please be aware that unscrupulous people have IT professionals who know how to scan the internet for negative comments about their company or services. They know how to have it removed, or shove it so far back in google searches that the average person doing a search who only looks at the first few search pages won’t find anything on them.

        My husband was killed in a car accident 5 weeks ago. I continued to pay all our bills, even the 2 credit accounts in his name only so we haven’t aged on any non-payments. Also, we have never been late on any payment and our credit is stellar. So there is no reason for anybody to be calling me. The “estate” is about a week out from being filed in the probate court.

        I think these people search obituaries or may have access to Social Security records. Know that coroners’ offices report the death immediately to Social Security.

        I feel for people who easily get scammed, and it’s up to us who know better to look out for them.

    • Ha ha. Actually, that comment really was left by my wife. She wasn’t quite as suspicious of DCM’s letter as I was, and actually called them up to cut a deal. Here’s the reason we paid them a partial settlement: we weren’t legally obligated to pay them anything at all, but even after a bunch of stuff (401k, life insurance, etc) passed directly to me and bypassed probate, there were several thousand dollars still in one of my father’s bank accounts. If we were to ever withdraw that money, AMEX and/or DCM could have made a claim against it for the full amount. The only way to “unlock” the money was to get DCM to waive any further claims to it.

      So as my wife said, we offered them a 20% settlement on my father’s AMEX debt. From DCM’s perspective, it was either get 20% or nothing. There was no outcome in which they would get 100% of the debt owed. From our perspective, it was either pay DCM some money and then go recoup much more than that out of the bank account (more than making up for the settlement payment), or get no money at all. With the deal we made, each party (us and DCM) at least got SOME amount of money greater than zero. It was either strike a bargain, or no one would have gotten ANYTHING and the money in that account would have eventually been forfeited and lost.

      As I said in my original post, our situation was somewhat unique in that I’m an only child and nearly every penny (except the above-mentioned bank account) of my father’s assets passed directly to me (and no one else) and bypassed probate. Add to that the fact that my father only had ONE outstanding debt when he passed away (AMEX). Not having to open a probate gave us leverage over DCM that many beneficiaries don’t have. Also, we actually consulted an estate attorney (and informed DCM of this fact), which probably sends up a red flag on DCM’s part to not try to strong-arm us. So DCM treated us quite professionally, and everything seems to have been on the up-and-up (e.g., we have written documentation from DCM outlining the settlement). But given a different executor without much leverage, or trying to juggle multiple claims on the estate, or without proper legal counsel, who knows how they’d act.

      Anyway, hope this clarifies the outcome and helps illustrate a particular circumstance where it does, in fact, make sense to strike a bargain with a collection agency such as DCM.

      It’s strange becoming an expert on this stuff, because it’s not useful except under very tragic circumstances.

      • I was wondering if you might respond and thanks for doing so. I’m glad you were able to negotiate a deal amicably and I hope your wife understands why I was suspicious of her comment. I appreciate your detailed response and regardless of how unique (in your case) or commonplace (in my case) one’s situation might be when dealing with a loved one’s affairs consulting with an estate attorney is always sage advice.

        In my case, I was the Executor of the Estate and was obligated to pay DCM as the Executor from the Estate’s funds.
        My original post is not about the legalities of dealing with DCM but rather how unprofessionally they treated me. And considering that this post is one of my more popular ones I know that DCM has struck a chord with many when trying to navigate the murky waters of estates, probates, and settling debts.

        Thanks again for sharing your experience!

    • Thank you for ur explanation. I, too, am in the same boat! My dad froze to death of the front porch of his home in Jan 2014. There will be no estate filed because he actually lived in a home that his father in law built back in the 30’s and this home is being passed down through the generations and his name was NEVER on the home. My name was on his checking account and the utility bills are automatically deducted from that.. …There is NOTHING else except furniture inside the house that I intend to sell. I surely will NOT respond to these idiots at dcm.

      • Karen,
        I’m sorry for your loss.
        I, as the Executor, was legally obligated to pay DCM Services on behalf of my dad’s estate so my situation was not the same as yours. This post was a way for me to vent my frustrations regarding how I was treated by DCM when they claim that “survivor-sensitive recovery is our singular focus.”
        While I can’t tell you what to do but if it were me I would schedule an appointment with an estate/probate attorney and have them explain your legal rights and obligations in regards to DCM.

  4. My mom passed in jan 2013. She owed on a capital one card of about $600. When i called them in feb they offered to tell me i was not obligated to pay it. Mom had no estate or will and no other children. About 2 weeks ago i did some “deceased opt-out”s and today i get a vague letter from dcm looking for the person having the authority to pay outstanding bills! Coincidence? I think not.

      • Thanks for your kind words.

        Update: Three days after rec’g the first letter, they’re already following up with a phone call! I got home from work today and “Jennifer Johnson” left a cryptic message about how she was looking for the person in charge of my mom’s estate. She didn’t say the company name. The phone # she gave is: 855-234-1135. I called and left a msg on their general voicemail stating she didn’t have a will or estate and was on Medicare. I said she didn’t owe any money, which to me is true if Capitol One told me I wasn’t responsible for it.

        The only thing I’m concerned about are constant annoying calls.

      • I’m sure you’ll receive many more calls and if you ever do speak to a DCM rep ask them: Am I legally obligated to pay? Don’t ever send them a cent unless you have verifiable proof that you’re obligated to pay and you’ve sought legal counsel. Remember DCM Services doesn’t have your best interests in mind.

      • Thanks for the info. So far they haven’t called me back in response to the voicemail I left. But we’ll see…

  5. So if my sister died unexpectedly, she was a widow with no children. She did not own a house. Any account she had I was the beneficiary or it was pod. Today a letter from DCM that was forwarded from her address. What do I do?

    • I’m sorry for your loss. Well I can’t tell you what to do but if it were me I would schedule an appointment with an estate/probate attorney and have them explain your legal rights and obligations in regards to DCM. Best of luck to you!

    • Sorry for ur loss, Sad Sister. The same thing has happened to me. However, I tossed the letter and am NOT answering the phone call. Get urself caller ID. I am NOT responsible for anyone’s debt EXCEPT my OWN.

      • My mother passed with no estate, her small amount oof money was joint with me and transfer to me upon her death. She owed approx 2k to HSBC. I recently received a letter from DCM and was advised since she had no esatate to just throw it out. Even though I’m not responsible contacting them will only have them harassing you.

    • Thanks for sharing the article Amy! Find it hard to believe anyone would send them “appreciative notes” for being so nice-did DCM pay someone to write this article? As always consult an attorney regarding your legal rights before contacting this company.

  6. I just received a letter that I have an estate, and I do not have an estate and, Yes I am still living. Thank you very much, DCM for the scam notification!

  7. I just received a letter from DMC today I expect concerning my late brothers estate. What estate. My brother died with $700 in his checking account and no other assest. I had to close the account just to add to the many donations to bury him. I shred the letter after reading the comments. Oh yes I am ready for the phone calls. Trust me DMC will be sorry they ever contacted me.

  8. Please be aware that unscrupulous people have IT professionals who know how to scan the internet for negative comments about their company or services. They know how to have it removed, or shove it so far back in google searches that the average person doing a search who only looks at the first few search pages won’t find anything on them.

    My husband was killed in a car accident 5 weeks ago. I continued to pay all our bills, even the 2 credit accounts in his name only so we haven’t aged on any non-payments. Also, we have never been late on any payment and our credit is stellar. So there is no reason for anybody to be calling me. The “estate” is about a week out from being filed in the probate court.

    I think these people search obituaries or may have access to Social Security records. Know that coroners’ offices report the death immediately to Social Security.

    I feel for people who easily get scammed, and it’s up to us who know better to look out for them.

  9. Thanks for the great informative blog. I received a letter from DCM yesterday fishing for information as to who is responsible for paying the debts of my father who passed away a year and a half ago. It was addressed to “The Estate of . . . .”. Although he had sizable assets, everything was in a Revocable Living Trust so legally there is no “estate”. He only had one credit card which he fatefully paid the entire balance every month. That card was closed with his bank and left a zero balance. Since he had no debt I feel it’s best for me to just ignore their request.

  10. My mother died in August, she was on Medicaid in a nursing home. Her only outstanding debt was to Mastercard (she charged all her medications on it). When she went into the nursing home, all her social security and small pension went directly to the nursing home except for a small amount each month for haircuts, etc. She had no money (we closed out her bank accounts) and owned nothing (the house had long ago been transferred to the childrens names). I sent them a letter by certified mail advising them of all of this, that she was unable to pay off the balance of her credit card debt, and they would have to close the account. I didn’t hear a single thing for months. I did get one bill collector letter warning her credit would be ruined, and then a letter from DCM today requesting the name of who was handling her ‘estate’. I am advised to just ignore it, which I am doing.

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