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Creditor claims after death may arise during probate

Most of us have a combination of assets, like bank and retirement accounts, and debts, like mortgages and auto loans. This likely will be the situation the rest of our lives. Thus, when we die, there may be creditors who are owed money, or at least believe they are.

One of the tasks of the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is to pay off legitimate creditors, and to fend off false debt claims. The process begins when the representative gives notice that the estate of the decedent -- a legal term for the person who has died -- has entered into probate.

All known creditors must receive notice, as must those who may be “reasonably ascertainable” to have lent money to the decedent, according to the Florida Bar Association. Providing notice starts the clock for the time period during which these creditors, or would-be creditors, can make a claim against the estate.

The law does not allow an endless amount of time to make claims. The time limit depends on the type of debt claim, but generally creditors have three months. They make a claim by filing with the clerk of the circuit court that is handling the probate.

Once the claim is filed, the personal representative has the option of disputing it, as can any other “interested persons,” in the Florida Bar’s language. If the debt is disputed this way, the creditor must sue if it still wants to pursue the claim.

A family or personal representative dealing with creditor claims against an estate may benefit from the aid of a probate attorney.

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