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How to deal with creditors in probate

Many creditors take an aggressive approach after the death of a loved one. As a personal representative, be cautious. Depleting an estate’s cash to pay these “squeaky wheels” can cause trouble down the road.

Because you may only administer an estate once or maybe a handful of times, seeking legal counsel from an estate administration attorney can be pivotal. Before you can take care of any business, you first need “letters” from the court. We’ll summarize the initial timeline in this post.

After receiving letters of appointment – 30 days

Regardless of whether the right choice for an estate is informal or formal probate, you need to notify interested third parties that you have authority to act on behalf of the estate. Send a Notice of Appointment form to beneficiaries and unpaid creditors. Then make sure to file proof with the court showing you sent these notices. On the timeline, you have 30 days from appointment to complete this step.

Figure out an estate accounting system that you will use to track assets and debts, record financial transactions and provide occasional written accountings to beneficiaries and the court. If you do not have a lot of accounting/finance experience, you may want to consult a CPA or accounting professional for help getting started.

Within 3 months

The second important deadline is three-months from appointment. To keep the process moving smoothly, the court requires that you inventory estate assets and file this with the court and/or give it to interested parties depending the size and complexity of the estate.

Another 4 months

Along with this, you should also start collecting bills/claims – credit cards, physicians, care facilities – against the estate. You can publish a notice in the paper for unknown creditors. Then if a creditor does not send a bill within four months, its claim will be barred.

Wait to pay claims until you have determined what is outstanding at the end of the four months. Only pay bills that are in writing and find out if the estate must pay certain bills. You can file a challenge within 60 days and then the creditor has 60 days to enforce their claim.

At the start of the process, a consultation with an attorney can answer initial questions. But more importantly, you will know who to call to get correct answers rather than making an irreversible mistake.

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