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The confusion of lingering debts during probate administration

While it may seem that a loved one's death is the end, in many respects, it is the beginning. For example, it is the beginning of the complex process of bringing closure to the estate of the deceased. Those in Oklahoma who have never experienced the death of someone close may have many questions about what to expect and who carries the responsibility for completing the many tasks of probate administration.

An unexpected death may leave the estate with many unpaid bills. If the deceased left a will naming a personal representative, that representative will be responsible for making sure any lingering bills are paid. If there is no one designated for that task, an administrator will be appointed by the court. That person will then handle the many details of closing the estate, including collecting any assets and distributing them according to the law of the state.

However, no assets can be distributed until all debts have been paid. This often means probate lasts for months while creditors make their claims for what the deceased may have owed them. There is a certain order in which the estate's bills must be paid, and a probate administrator must be careful to follow that order. For example, funeral expenses and federal taxes take priority over credit card bills.

If the estate runs out of money to pay all the debts, some assets may be sold. The court may also declare the estate to be insolvent if those assets won't cover the debts. In any case, Oklahoma law determines how much time creditors have to notify the estate of a debt, and the court must approve any payments made from the estate.

Most people would want to spare their loved ones the frustration of trying to settle the estate without guidance. To avoid this, they may seek the advice of an attorney to create an estate plan that will eliminate as much confusion as possible for those left behind. Probate administration does not have to be a burden if the estate is well prepared.

Source:, "Law You Can Use: Who pays the bills when someone dies?", Accessed on Aug. 21, 2017

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