Attorneys Stephen Korshak and Lee Karina Dani

Can you collect on a debt when the person who owes it dies?

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2022 | Collections |

Waiting for someone to repay a debt can be a frustrating experience. Some people will try to get away with paying as little as possible and drag out the process for years. You may have to track them down because they change their phone number or take them to court to force them to make payments.

All of that effort can feel in vain if the person who owes you money dies with a significant balance still owed to you. Does your ability to collect on a debt end when the person who owes it dies in Florida?

Financial responsibility passes to the estate

The good news for you as a creditor is that Florida debts don’t just disappear when someone dies. You can pursue collection activity even after the death of the main debtor. If there is a cosigner or co-borrower, you can potentially take action against that individual for the full amount owed.

If the debt belongs solely to the deceased individual, you can make a claim against their estate. Under Florida probate laws, the executor or personal representative of someone’s estate has to repay their debts before they distribute assets to beneficiaries of the estate.

The executor should notify you directly about the death so that you can make a claim for repayment in probate court. However, if they don’t know about the account, your notice may come from publication of a notice to creditors.

You need to make a timely claim against the estate in probate court to compel repayment. The good news is that as long as the courts agree that you have a valid claim and there are still assets in the estate, your right to repayment supersedes even the right of children to inherit from the estate.

Timely action is crucial when a debtor dies

Enforcing financial contracts and debts can be a complex process. When the claim is against an estate, there is a finite pool of resources to pay the remaining debts the person had when they died. Your business could lose its right to repayment if it doesn’t quickly respond to written or published notification that someone has died and that probate proceedings have opened for their estate.

Knowing your rights as a creditor in Florida can help you better collect on an outstanding debt, regardless of how the circumstances change.