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How are estate creditors involved in probate?

Among the primary reasons for probate in Florida is the satisfaction of the debts of the decedent. The personal representative of the estate is required to provide notice of probate to any reasonably ascertainable or known creditors. Upon notice, creditors typically are allowed a period of three months to file claims with the court clerk. The claims should set forth the details of the relevant debts.

In the event that a claim against the estate is disputed, the personal representative may file an objection. The creditor must then pursue recovery through a lawsuit independent of probate proceedings. If no objections are filed, the claim will generally be paid from the assets of the decedent's estate prior to any distributions to heirs or beneficiaries. Until each of a creditor's claims has been either paid or ruled invalid, the creditor must be treated as an interested party during probate.

The personal representative is required to file a report of claims filed against the estate, and the probate case cannot conclude until any such claims have been taken care of. The decedent's legitimate debts may include any claims arising from his or her credit activity, debts related to taxes and the costs associated with probate administration. Probate costs typically have priority over other claims.

The facts of a particular case will determine the role that creditors play during probate. Each case is unique, and this blog post is not meant to be read as legal advice. An estate-planning attorney may be able to answer questions about probate in Florida or assist prior to or during legal proceedings. An attorney can help with the creation of a comprehensive plan including one or more trusts or other instruments designed to allow the decedent's assets to avoid probate and pass directly to beneficiaries.

Source: The Florida Bar, "13. WHAT ARE THE ESTATE'S OBLIGATIONS TO ESTATE CREDITORS?", October 17, 2014

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