The Business Council of New York State, the state’s leading statewide business and industry association, opposes this legislation that requires that a retail lessee shall not be liable for charges for the early termination of a retail lease agreement of a motor vehicle if he or she has deceased before the end of such lease.
This issue is often clouded by emotion due to its very nature. The collection of monies owed past-death is a sensitive topic, particularly due to recent media coverage surrounding this issue. However, the probate process is designed to handle such issues and should be followed in this and other cases of leases. It is the responsibility of the estate to pay contractual amounts entered into during the decedent’s death. In general, the probate process protects family members and loved ones from being personally responsible at death for contractual amounts owed unless they are on the lease as well. This same process also protects the rights of creditors and insures that the estate settles contractual amounts entered into by the decedent.
It should be noted that altering the law under this legislation would drastically change the probate process in a very negative manner. Under the current system, the method for collection from the estate through the probate process also encourages heirs to turn in vehicles, for which there is a lease, quickly and in good condition. This serves to limit further amounts owed under the lease agreement to be paid by the estate. Without this incentive in place, neither the estate nor the person using the leased vehicle, would be responsible for the early termination charges, let alone the excess miles used and the wear and tear on the automobile.
There is also a technical flaw in the bill as drafted since it doesn't address what would happen if there was a surviving co-lessee. Under this scenario a survivor could potentially still turn in vehicle without penalty at co-lessees death with no consequences, even if they hold on to the vehicle for an extended period of time.
For the above reasons, The Business Council opposes this legislation.