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Probate administration handles debts of an estate

When someone dies, there is often a focus on how the person's assets will be distributed. While some may anticipate an inheritance from a loved one's estate, what they may not realize is that an inheritance will only come after probate administration. This process involves many different elements, but one important factor is paying off the debts of the deceased. It is entirely possible that a loved one's debts will deplete some or all of the assets.

After the death of a loved one who has left a will, an executor is formally appointed by the Oklahoma court. One of the first duties of the executor is to gather information about the debts the deceased may have owed. This may be done by obtaining a credit report. The executor will also notify the credit reporting agencies and any known creditors to alert them of the passing of the account holder. The creditors will have a limited amount of time to make a claim on the estate.

Debts that are jointly owned or co-signed could become the responsibility of the surviving party. Additionally, if the spouse of the deceased is still living, he or she may take on the full responsibility of debts such as a mortgage or joint credit card bills. If the deceased has no living spouse, those debts will be paid from the estate, which may mean selling certain assets. Someone who inherits the house may choose to take over the mortgage, but not all lenders will agree to this arrangement.

Being named the executor of an estate with many outstanding debts can mean months of frustration and complicated negotiations with creditors. Many Oklahoma executors find they are not up to the task. In such situations, they rely on the assistance of an attorney who has proven experience in probate administration.

Source: khou.com, "What happens to debt when we die?", Sarah Li Cain, Accessed on Oct. 7, 2017

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