Personal Representatives: Responding to Claims Against the Estate

Personal representatives are typically the spouse or loved one of the deceased.  More often than not, this person has no experience in estate administration or dealing with creditors.  Thus, it is essential to have an experienced probate lawyer assist and guide them through the process.  While every state has its own laws and it is important to consult with an attorney in the applicable state, below are a few guidelines for personal representatives:

  • When an estate is opened, the personal representative must give notice to any and all known creditors.  This is often accomplished by publishing the notice in a local newspaper.  The notice should include the probate case information, the deadline for submitting claims, and the contact information for the personal representative and/or his attorney.
  • Once the deadline for claims has passed, any claims that were not timely submitted are disallowed and no longer a debt against the estate.
  • Claims that are timely filed must be handled by the personal representative.  The first option is that if there are sufficient assets to cover the debt, it should be paid.  The second option is that if the estate assets are insufficient to pay the debt, the personal representative must notify the creditor of the deficiency.  A local attorney will need to give the personal representative advice on which creditors get paid and what the priority of payment should be.

From this brief summary of dealing with claims against an estate, you can see that the personal representative’s job is not easy.  There are a lot of decisions to be made, deadlines to be met, and dealing with creditors is just one part of the job.  Thus, it is vital for a personal representative to seek the assistance of an experienced probate lawyer in the applicable state to help with the complex tasks involved in probate.


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