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What Options Do Beneficiaries Have In Court To Resolve A Deceased Person’s Debt?

Probate is the legal process whereby the deceased person’s final affairs are wrapped up, the debts are paid, and the remaining assets are distributed. If the decedent wrote a will and designated what assets would be used for settling their debts, the court will rely on the decedent’s wishes to the greatest extent possible. If, however, the decedent did not make such a decision in advance, the court will apply state law to determine which of the decedent’s assets will be used to pay his or her debts.

Fortunately, probate procedure only gives creditors about two months to file their claims against the estate, and many creditors will miss that deadline. Due to this advantage, many estates are subject to probate in order to specifically determine whether particular debts must or need not be paid.

What Creditors Can Make A Claim For An Estate Asset Once Someone Dies?

All creditors and all claimants are given two months during a probate to make their claims against the estate. A personal representative has an obligation, under Oklahoma probate law, to make a good faith effort to identify all of the estate’s creditors and potential claimants and to give them notice of the probate and the deadline for filing claims. Further, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has entered a ruling that a hospital where the decedent passes away is presumed to be an owe-able creditor. Therefore, every personal representative must give written notice to the hospital where the decedent died, even if the personal representative does not believe that the hospital is still owed any money.

There are some things that a personal representative should do in order to determine whether there are any estate creditors that are entitled to notice. One thing that should occur is that the personal representative should review mail that is sent to the decedent’s mailing address. Another place to research might be the decedent’s existing checkbook. If a decedent has been mailing a monthly check to Visa or MasterCard, it is reasonable to expect that Visa or MasterCard may be owed money by the decedent and therefore, further research is in order.

There is a small class of creditors that is not required to file a claim in order to receive payment. That class includes the creditors who provide funeral and burial services, as well as medical bills arising out of the decedent’s final illness. The personal representative should pay those claims as soon as he or she has money in hand sufficient to meet those needs.

For more information on Resolving A Decedent’s Debts In Oklahoma, a free 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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