DEAR BRUCE: I recently received a phone solicitation that has left me a little disturbed. The call supposedly came from a well-known financial institution wanting to consolidate and refinance my debt. What disturbed me was that she said, "I ran your credit report and saw that you had outstanding balances on a couple of credit cards."
How on earth can they run my credit report without me applying for anything? It seems to me this was done just to solicit business. I thought credit reports could be run only to see if you were creditworthy because you had applied for a loan of some kind, not to solicit someone. I feel this is unethical. -- Reader, via email
DEAR READER: You are correct when you say that the basic reason for credit reports is to help businesses weed out credit applications based on potential customers' creditworthiness. However, the reality is that many companies can pull credit reports before making offers. I am not prepared to comment on whether using the information as you've described is ethical.
The company's offer to help you consolidate your debt makes me nervous. If that is something you need to look into, I would do just that: Look into it. Do your homework. There are so many of these debt consolidation/negotiation firms that it leaves one questioning their motives. Walk softly.
DEAR BRUCE: My father died without a will, thinking the kids would "work it out equitably on their own.
Since there wasn't a will, is there any legal recourse the rest of us can take, since she's not returning phone calls? No one, to my knowledge, was ever given the responsibility of being in charge of his estate. -- D.P., via email
DEAR D.P.: Since your father died without a will, the state will decide to whom the remainder of his estate will go, and in what amounts, after his obligations have been settled. One of you needs to apply to be named administrator of his estate in the surrogates court of the county where your father lived. All of his children will be asked to sign off on the application.
Your sister might object to someone else being appointed administrator. If it gets to that, legal motions would be made on the part of both parties, and the surrogate would have to settle the matter.
This is another example of how having a properly drawn will can obviate many problems. A few dollars spent on a will would have saved a great many dollars that will now have to be expended. Good luck.
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