When a person dies, the executor of the estate must notify known creditors to the estate within a short period of time after the death. The creditors then have a limited amount of time to file a claim against the estate to pay off the debt. The claim has to be filed with either the local probate court or with the executor handling the estate. Here is how you can file a claim against the estate of someone who died owing you money.

Time Limits to File Claim

Every state has its own guidelines and time limits on when a creditor has to file a claim. You need to check with the probate court in your state to find out what exact time limits will apply to you.

The important thing to remember is that if you wait until the time limit expires on filing claims, you will not be able to file a claim and you will not be able to recover the money owed to you.

Claim Forms

Most states have a specific form typically called "Claims Against Estate" that has to be filed for your claim to be considered by the probate court or the executor of the estate. With this form, you are verifying that the person who died owed you money, the reason why they owed you money, and how much has already been paid off, if anything, on the original debt.

Claim Process

Your claim will be placed on a pile of bills to be paid. Many states have set rules on how claims against an estate will be paid. The priority of payments typically goes as follows:

  • Federal and state taxes get paid first.
  • Probate costs, including paying the estate's executor, are second.
  • Funeral and recent medical costs are third.
  • General creditors are fourth.
  • Beneficiaries are last.

There is a possibility that the state will not have enough money to pay all of its creditors. In this case, the estate is considered insolvent and there's a good chance you won't receive anything.

Unpaid Claim

If the estate is insolvent, there isn't anything you can do to recover the debt that is owed to you. However, if the estate was still solvent, and the executor refused to honor your claim and dispersed all of the estate's assets, you will need to file a claim with the probate court for a contempt judgement against the executor.

If the contempt judgement is granted, the executor will be ordered to return money to the estate (even if it comes from his personal assets) to pay the outstanding debt owed to you.

For more information, talk to a probate lawyer