Estate administration and probate proceedings are lengthy and often frustrating for the people involved. The executor has to manage a lot of moving pieces and details, while the beneficiaries have to wait for everyone else to make claims before they can get their inheritance.
It is the obligation of the personal representative of the estate to notify creditors about probate proceedings so that they can make claims and seek repayments for the debts still owed when the testator died. Which debts does the estate have an obligation to cover with estate assets?
Every creditor, even Medicaid, can make a claim
The money that someone owes doesn’t become bad debts that businesses and individuals must write off when that person dies. Instead, the responsibility for the debt passes to the estate, just like the assets that someone owns when they die become the property that comprises the estate. Financial obligations ranging from student loans to credit card debts will become the responsibility of someone’s estate when they die.
The personal representative of the estate will need to use the estate’s financial resources or sell some of the decedent’s personal property so that they can pay those debts in full. The estate may even be responsible for paying back the full value of the medical care that Medicaid paid for previously.
It is the responsibility of the personal representative to notify individual creditors and to publish notices for creditors that they do not know exist. The published notices should be in the local county newspaper for at least two successive weeks.
Those creditors then have as long as two years to make a claim in the Florida probate courts. Only after that time has passed can the personal representative move on to distributing assets to beneficiaries without running the risk of being personally responsible for some of those debts.
Although the personal representative does not have to pay off debts on behalf of the deceased if there aren’t enough resources in the estate to cover all of someone’s debts, they may have financial liability if they mismanage assets and leave certain debts unpaid.
Understanding the rules that apply to Florida probate proceedings can help those planning their estates and those tasked with administering an estate.