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Examining How Creditors Function In Estate Cases In Oklahoma

In this article, you will learn about:

  • Examples of which cases creditors will go after beneficiaries for money.
  • What to do if there is not enough money in the estate to reimburse creditors.
  • What an estate must be valued at to go through probate in Oklahoma.

Can Creditors Go After Beneficiaries For Money?

Creditors may go after beneficiaries for money depending on the situation, but often they cannot do that. For example, if the deceased person had life insurance and you are named as the beneficiary of the life insurance, it is very likely that the creditors have no right to go after that life insurance money at all, provided that the policy owner named you as a beneficiary while they were competent. There are other situations where it is not this simple. Consider a situation where you are the only child of the deceased person. If you go into the decedent’s home and take away all of their assets and sell them for your own benefit, it is entirely possible that the creditors will be able to force you to give back that money, and possibly even force you to pay the attorney fees necessary to resolve their case.

Further, if you, using your power of attorney, continue to take money out of the deceased person’s bank account after their death and the creditors are unpaid as a result of your actions, it is very likely that those creditors can seek repayment for your actions. It is equally likely that the judge will agree that the situation is illegal and improper, and you could be ordered by the court to pay the creditors.

What If There Is Not Enough Money In The Estate To Pay Creditors?

If there is not enough money in the estate to pay creditors, it is called an insolvent estate. For instance, if someone passed away owing $50,000 in nursing home expenses, $100,000 in medical expenses, $5,000 on a credit card, but they only have $9,000 in the bank, this is an insolvent estate. These events do happen with some regularity, and the state of Oklahoma has a statute that lists the priority of creditors, and the creditors with the highest priority get paid first. For example, it is important that the decedent receive a proper burial, and burial is one of the high-priority expenses. Because of this, all of the burial expenses will be paid before the lower priority expenses. If the family spent $6,000 on burial, leaving only $3,000 in the hypothetical bank account, all of the other creditors will be allocated the $3,000 according to the requirements described by the statutes.

If the decedent had expenses relating to a final illness (such as end-of-life medical bills), these expenses will come ahead of a credit card bill. So if the decedent has only $3,000 left in the bank, that $3,000 may be used to pay final medical expenses, and the credit card company will most likely not receive anything at all. It is important to understand that the list of priorities for creditors is complex to deal with, and dealing with creditors on your own is not advisable and should be managed by a qualified attorney. Additionally, many of the creditors do not file their claims during the probate process in a timely manner, resulting in a loss of their ability to pursue debt collection. These sorts of cases may allow families to inherit substantial sums of money even where it looks like it could be an insolvent estate due to medical bills.

How Much Does An Estate Need To Be Worth To Go Through Probate In Oklahoma?

This is a common and important question, and the price varies from situation to situation. For example, if the deceased person owned a piece of real estate, the only way to expeditiously get title to that property in someone else’s name is by completing the probate process. If the deceased individual owned a piece of property worth $20,000, it is likely that a probate would be necessary to transfer ownership of that particular lot. However, in some cases, the deceased person can have almost no money and many unpaid bills. In these cases, many attorneys will find that it is better to open a probate case in order to force all the creditors to bring a claim at the same time. This would allow the court to divide up the decedent’s assets among the creditors in accordance with the law. When the probate process is concluded, the beneficiaries of the deceased can go forward knowing that there will not be litigation or arguments in the future concerning the decedent’s estate. This is especially important if there is extensive debt, which the probate process should reconcile.

For more information on Creditors Going After The Estate In Oklahoma, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (405) 754-4166 today.

Terrell Monks, Esq. - Estate Planning Attorney, Edmond City

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