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When Can You Tell A Deceased Family Member’s Creditors To Get Lost?


It is never easy to be the personal representative of a family member’s estate, simply because it is always hard to lose a loved one, but the better a job your family member did with estate planning, the easier your job as a personal representative will be.  Sorting out the personal property of a deceased relative who hoarded possessions is an unenviable task, but settling the estate of a family member whose finances are a mess is at least as much of a challenge.  Probate is difficult enough when family members use it as a venue to settle old grudges or when the decedent did not write a will, leaving you to start from zero trying to figure out what they owned; it is even worse when they let their debts pile up for years.  If you are nearing retirement age and are struggling with debt, the time is now to contact a Jupiter bankruptcy and retirement lawyer.

Probate Is for Creditors

Why does the law require a recently deceased person’s estate to go through probate instead of just being distributed to the heirs according to the decedent’s will?  A main reason is debt.  Think about the similarities between the words “probate” and “probation.”  During probate, the decedent’s finances are open for scrutiny.  Probate is a chance for creditors to claim the debts that the decedent owed them before the estate settles and the assets that previously belonged to the decedent become the property of the heirs listed in the will.

As personal representative, you must notify all known creditors that the estate is open for probate, and that this is the time for them to request payment of debts owed to them by the decedent.  Known creditors are those who have sent bills by postal mail to the decedent and those to whom payments are visible in the transaction history of the decedent’s bank account.  During probate, the personal representative also has a responsibility to publish a notice inviting unknown creditors to seek the payment of debts from the estate.  The statute of limitations for seeking payment of a debt from a deceased person’s estate is two years from the date of death.  The personal representative can shorten that deadline by publishing a notice to creditors; this usually shortens the deadline to around six months.

Dealing with creditors is not the hardest part of probate.  The hardest part is telling the heirs that their inheritance will be much smaller than they were hoping, because most of the estate has been used up paying off debts.  In some cases, you as a personal representative might even need to sell the decedent’s house or other possessions to pay the debts.  Not all debt claims are fair game in probate, though.  Some debts, such as student loans, automatically vanish when the creditor dies.

Don’t Leave the Challenge of Dealing With Creditors to Your Next of Kin

A debt attorney can help you find the best way to address your debts even if you are retired and no longer earning an income from work.  Contact Nowack & Olson, PLLC for help today.



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