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How should the executor of an estate communicate with creditors?

On Behalf of | May 15, 2024 | Probate

Taking responsibility for someone’s estate involves accepting a lot of personal responsibility. Family members and beneficiaries look to the representative of an estate to inform them about the status of the probate process and may pressure them to give them their inheritance as soon as possible.

The personal representative also has to handle all probate court proceedings and fulfill the decedent’s legal and financial obligations to others. Settling debts is an important aspect of the estate administration process.

The representative of an estate could be personally responsible for debts that they fail to pay if they mismanage estate resources and distribute them to beneficiaries before handling debts. It is, therefore, important for the personal representative of a South Carolina estate to proactively communicate with creditors.

Direct communication and published notice are mandatory

The personal representative of someone’s estate typically has to go over their financial records carefully. They can often identify creditors who need notice of estate administration simply by reviewing financial statements and incoming mail.

There is an expectation that the personal representative of an estate should send notice to known creditors about the initiation of probate proceedings early in the process. However, not all creditors send regular written statements or turn up in financial paperwork. Therefore, probate statutes also require the publication of formal notice.

The personal representative must have an ad run at least once a week for at least three consecutive weeks in the local paper of record to alert creditors about the need to submit a probate claim. Publication of the notice helps ensure that those who have an interest in the estate have an opportunity to make a claim in probate court.

The personal representative should use estate resources to pay those debts. In scenarios where the amount of debt exceeds the value of the assets in the estate, the personal representative may need assistance to ensure they pay the debts in the right order so that they are not liable for remaining balances due at the end of the probate process.

Having informed guidance and support during estate administration can reduce the risk that a personal representative accepts when they agree to oversee the probate process. Otherwise, small mistakes while handling debts and managing estate administration can potentially lead to legal and financial liability for the representative.