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Pursuing credit claims against deceased parties in California

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2024 | Creditor Claims |

The death of a debtor can complicate matters for creditors owed money. While the debt doesn’t simply disappear, navigating the process of collecting from a deceased individual’s estate requires specific procedures under California law.

When someone passes away in the Golden State, their assets typically go through a legal process called probate. During probate, the court approves or appoints a personal representative (often the deceased’s spouse or child) to manage the estate, pay off debts and distribute remaining assets to beneficiaries. If you are a creditor, you’ll need to interact with the probate court to collect what you’re owed under such circumstances.

Filing a creditor’s claim

There are strict deadlines for filing a claim against a deceased debtor’s estate in the Golden State. Generally, you must file your claim within the later of:

  • Four months from the date the personal representative receives their authority from the court (called “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration”).
  • 60 days after you receive notice of the probate from the personal representative.

Missing this deadline could result in your claim being denied, so it’s crucial to act promptly. The claim should be submitted in writing and include your name and address as the creditor, the deceased’s name, a detailed explanation of the debt, including the amount owed, the basis for the debt (e.g., loan agreement, unpaid invoice) and any supporting documentation.

Obtaining payment

Once you file your claim, the personal representative can pay the claim in full. This is the ideal scenario, but it depends on the availability of funds within the estate. The personal representative can also partially pay the claim. If the estate has insufficient funds to cover all debts, creditors will be paid proportionally based on their claim amount and priority (secured vs. unsecured debts).

In some cases, the personal representative may dispute the claim. They may challenge the validity or amount of your claim. In this case, you may need to file a lawsuit to prove your claim.

Understanding your rights as a creditor and the probate process in California is essential for pursuing a claim against a deceased party’s estate. By following these steps and seeking legal guidance, you can increase your chances of recovering what you’re owed.