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How should the representative of an estate handle estate debts?

On Behalf of | Apr 23, 2024 | Estate Administration & Probate |

Estate administration is as much about fulfilling someone’s obligations as it is about establishing their legacy. In Oklahoma, the personal representative handling estate administration has numerous personal responsibilities to fulfill.

The failure to perform certain duties could lead to legal or financial liability for the representative of the estate. Failing to properly provide notice to creditors and to set aside estate resources for their repayment could lead to probate litigation. A personal representative must communicate with creditors and has to appropriately use estate resources to pay them.

What does the law require when handling debts as part of the probate process?

Creditors should receive written notice

The personal representative of the estate needs to conduct a thorough review of financial records and correspondence to establish what financial responsibilities the decedent left behind when they died. They must then communicate with creditors so that they have an opportunity to pursue repayment. The personal representative has to publish notice about estate administration in a local newspaper for two consecutive weeks. They also need to send direct written notice to all known creditors. Creditors then need to file a claim seeking repayment within 30 days of receiving the letter or the date of notice publication in the newspaper.

Debts take priority over inheritances

Once creditors have notified the personal representative about their claims, repayment can occur. The personal representative needs to use estate resources to cover debts in a certain order of priority. Tax obligations and probate expenses take priority over unsecured debts, like credit card balances. In theory, every last resource in the estate may need to go toward the repayment of debts if someone does not have enough money to cover all of their financial responsibilities when they die. In some cases, the beneficiaries of the estate may not receive anything after someone passes because debts consume the entirety of the estate.

A personal representative needs to ensure careful compliance with the law if they want to avoid legal and financial responsibility for any debts they fail to pay during estate administration. Learning more about the rules that apply to Oklahoma probate proceedings can help personal representatives avoid litigation and financial liability accordingly.