When a Georgia Probate Court appoints an Executor or Administrator to be the personal representative of a decedent’s estate, the first requirement that person must meet is to publish a notice in the legal newspaper of the decedent’s county of residence. That notice, called the “Notice to Debtors and Creditors”, requires that anyone who owes the estate money make immediate payment, and notifies creditors of the decedent to file their claims against the estate. The Notice to Debtors and Creditors is published once a week for four weeks. Creditors have a period of three months after the last publication to file a claim.
Before distributions can be made to the beneficiaries of the Will, or to the heirs of an intestate estate, all legitimate claims made during the claims period must be paid. Even for individuals who don’t carry significant debt during their lifetimes, creditor claims after death can delay receipt by a beneficiary of funds he or she might need, and can diminish significantly the amount that is ultimately received.
If death occurs because of an illness, there may be medical expenses not covered by insurance. The personal representative is responsible for paying those medical bills. If death occurs because of an accident that is found to have been the decedent’s fault, the entire estate could be lost to paying that judgment.
In some states, claims are filed with the Probate Court, and the Court supervises their payment. In Georgia, all a creditor has to do is send the bill to the personal representative. Creditors will sometimes file a claim with the Probate Court, but the burden lies with the personal representative to make sure claims are paid.
Concern about creditor claims is one reason why people will choose to arrange their estate planning to avoid probate. Do you need to review your plan to ensure that your beneficiaries will be able to avoid the headache of probate? Reach out to my team at 770-817-4999 or email@example.com to learn more.