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How debt can affect probate proceedings in New York

There are many complicated matters that families need to address during probate proceedings in New York. The probate process begins by notifying the courts of someone’s passing and empowering a personal representative to administer the estate.

That personal representative manages the entire probate process. The assets that once belonged to the decedent become the property of their estate. Their financial obligations become the responsibility of the estate. The representative had to manage and distribute estate property.

A personal representative often needs to file tax returns on behalf of the person who died. They may also need to communicate with creditors and arrange to repay valid debts owed by the decedent. What impact do debts have on the New York probate process?

Increasing the duration of probate proceedings

How long it takes to fully settle an estate depends on multiple different factors. The more debt someone has, this is greater the likelihood that the estate may not have enough capital to pay all creditors in full.

The personal representative may need to hold off on distributing assets to beneficiaries until after creditors have had an opportunity to file claims in probate court. Representatives need to notify creditors and retain sufficient resources to cover their claims. That way, they aren’t at risk of personal liability. If they distribute assets to beneficiaries without first paying creditors in full, those creditors might hold them personally accountable for unpaid debts.

Diminishing what people inherit

The debts owed by the decedent generally take priority over the inheritance rights of their family members and beneficiaries. The more debt someone has when they die, the more likely beneficiaries are to lose part of their inheritances.

A personal representative may need to liquidate estate resources to repay creditors. In some cases, those repayment obligations might even lead to beneficiaries completely losing out on an inheritance. Personal representatives may have to communicate with beneficiaries to inform them of the extent of the debt when compared with the overall value of the estate resources so that the process doesn’t end with frustration and possibly litigation.

Understanding the effect that the debts of the decedent can have on the probate process can help both representatives and beneficiaries know what to expect. Estate administration can be very complex, particularly when someone dies with a significant amount of debt.

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