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Repaying Debts In Florida Probate


You might be hard pressed to find someone who says that when they think about their future inheritance, what they’re looking forward to is settling all of the unpaid bills or accumulated debts in the estate. However, just as an estate may leave behind certain assets, it may also pass down unpaid bills or debts. But how are a decedent’s unpaid bills handled after they die? Well, the deceased’s debts are paid during the Florida probate process. This article aims to shed some light on that process.

Who Is Responsible for Paying off the Deceased’s Unpaid Bills?

The rules of Florida probate stipulate that, typically, the deceased’s unpaid bills must be paid off by the estate. One of the primary purposes of the probate process is actually to ensure that the decedent’s debts will be repaid timely.

What this translates to in the current Florida probate process is that the personal representative of a decedent’s estate must undertake a diligent effort to give actual notice of the probate proceeding to “known or reasonably ascertainable” creditors.

This notice gives the creditors an opportunity to file claims against the decedent’s probate estate. Once creditors receive this probate notice they are put on a limited time frame to submit claims against the estate. By placing creditors with a limited time frame the probate can ensure that the estate can be settled timely, and that the personal representative/beneficiaries will have a definite timeframe as to when they can be assured no additional claims can be made against the estate.

What is the Process?

Once the decedent’s estate has passed through the probate process the unpaid bills may be addressed in a number of different ways. Depending on the individual circumstances, the estate may be made to pay off the bills from funds in the estate. If the estate does not contain sufficient funds to cover the debts, the probate court could take steps to negotiate a payment plan with a creditor, or simply forgive a given amount of the debt. The outcomes differ based on individual circumstances on a case, but an experienced probate attorney can advise on best steps forward in your specific situation.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Rule?

Yes, there are some exceptions to the general rule that an estate must pay off the deceased’s debts. Florida probate rules stipulate that some debts may be forgiven if deemed too burdensome for the estate to repay. This typically applies to medical bills of the deceased and probate fees, whose payment can sometimes be negotiated with the probate court. However, you should not expect other types of debt to be forgiven or discharged – particularly student loans and credit card debt.

Contact Suncoast Civil Law

The old adage still rings true: in life two things are certain: death and taxes. However, when it comes to settling a decedent’s probate estate there are different steps one can take to manage the repayment of debts swiftly and cost-effectively. The experienced Sarasota probate litigation lawyers at Suncoast Civil Law have helped many clients through the complicated probate process, and are standing by to advise on a tailor-made plan suitable for your situation. Contact our office today to speak with an expert attorney.