It would be nice if everyone’s debts were fully settled when they died, but that rarely happens – and it’s not always easy to understand what steps you need to take to collect from an estate.
In California, there are some strict deadlines that you need to follow and steps you need to take if you hope to claim what you’re due. These include:
You need to make yourself a known creditor against the estate
Generally speaking, the executor of an estate is required by the court to give notice that probate has been opened to any known creditors. That means that they will generally look at the bills the deceased had coming in and try to ascertain who has a reasonably determinable claim.
Once they’ve made their list, the executor must provide notice that the estate is open either:
- Within 30 days after the personal representative first becomes aware of the creditor, or
- Within four months after the personal representative is given letters of general powers from the court (whichever is later).
Similarly, creditors have the same amount of time to serve the estate’s personal representative with their claim, including any paper documentation that would show that the debt is valid. They must also file the claim with the court, using the appropriate forms. If your claim is late, it will probably be barred entirely – unless you can prove that you were improperly deprived of the notice you were due.
You need to be ready to fight for what you’re due
Once filed, the estate’s personal representative must then either allow or deny the claim, and that can be done in whole or in part. If you’re unwilling to accept the executor’s decision, you do have the right to sue for the debt in civil court.
It can be supremely frustrating to have the money you are owed tied up in probate. Experienced legal guidance can help you avoid additional complications.