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Probate Decedent’s Estate – 4 of 6 (Paying Debts)

Torrance Probate and Estate Planning Attorney

Probate Decedent’s Estate – 4 of 6 (Paying Debts)

This writing is the fourth in a series regarding probate decedent’s estate court proceedings in California.

The first three writings covered the ultimate goal of the process, which is transferring the assets of someone who died (a decedent) to the people who are supposed to receive them. They also discussed the first of the three major steps of a probate decedent’s estate court proceeding, which is getting someone in charge of the assets.

This writing will cover the second major step, which is paying any valid debts of the decedent. All people owed money by the decedent (the creditors) must be paid before the assets of the decedent (the estate) can be transferred to the people who are to receive them. There is a detailed formal written process for doing this.

First, the person in charge must provide written notice to all creditors of the decedent to let them know that the probate decedent’s estate court proceeding is started and that they may file a claim to be paid from the estate. The notice must go to all known or reasonably ascertainable creditors. If the person in charge is aware that a creditor of the decedent is expecting to be paid, then she needs to provide the notice to that creditor. She also needs to search diligently through the mail of the decedent and the decedent’s belongings for any bills or other items indicating that a creditor expects to be paid.

After the person in charge determines the creditors, she will mail a special notice to each of them. To be paid, each creditor would need to provide her with a formal claim within a specific amount of time.

With the help of her attorney, she then evaluates each claim by a creditor and determines whether to approve and pay it or to reject it. Any payment to a creditor would come from the estate and not from her personal assets. If she rejects the claim by a creditor, then the creditor must file a lawsuit to be paid. Probate decedent’s estate court proceedings do not normally involve creditor litigation.

After the valid debts of the decedent have been paid, it will be time to transfer the assets of the decedent to the people who are supposed to receive them. First, the next post (#5 of 6) will discuss a special issue that occurs when real estate is involved.