When you are the personal representative of a deceased family member or friend, your main responsibility is settling their estate. However, what happens if the decedent dies with outstanding student loans or credit card debt? Generally speaking, YOU should not be responsible for paying these debts. Instead, the money should come out of the estate. That said, an estate attracting excessive creditors’ claims could cost you. More specifically, an indebted estate facing conflicts with creditors could mean a substantial increase in California probate costs and fees.

When Are Executors Responsible for Paying an Estate’s Debt?

California is a community property state. Therefore, the court considers two individuals who are married or in a domestic partnership one “community”. While family members are not typically responsible for an estate’s debts, spouses and registered domestic partners will most likely incur their spouse’s debt upon their death.

That said, in a probate proceeding with an executor who was not married to the decedent, the executor will usually not incur any debt. Instead, the estate will pay all debts until it runs out of money. Otherwise, any remaining assets in the estate will go to beneficiaries. Keep in mind that if an executor chooses to pay beneficiaries BEFORE settling debt, that individual may be held financially responsible. Likewise, if an executor fails to notify creditors of the decedent’s death, they may also incur legal fees.

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What our Clients Say...
“We had a complicated situation trying to change the beneficiaries to an old family property. There were 7 owners, most of whom were born in the 1800s. A People’s Choice persevered along with us and got it done. Lawyers we had contacted wanted $1000’s more than APC charged us and were unsure as to how to even proceed. We are extremely happy with what they achieved for us.”
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“VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!! My experience with A People’s Choice was EXCELLENT!! I retained their services to help me with the probate process after unexpectedly losing my Mom. I received quotes from 2 lawyers locally and they were 3 to 4 times the price. All communications from the staff were punctual and very thoroughly explained. They were there to support me the entire time. Any and all questions I had were explained as needed with very quick responses. There were NO HIDDEN FEES or charges. They have a very easy to use portal to access all of the documents. I can’t say enough good things about the work that they did for me!!! Thank you to all the staff. You are an amazing team and I appreciate everything you did to help my family and I when we needed it most!!”
Hisham A.
“The entire team at A People’s Choice were very supportive in our probate case. Losing a parent is extremely difficult, and so is the subsequent paperwork.  A People’s Choice made it easier and charged a very fair price, saving us thousands in attorney fees. What I liked a lot was the transparency and digital tools used. Documents were managed via email and on a platform. Payment for court items was easy. I appreciate that they use modern methods in an old school industry and most things could be done remotely. All in all, I can definitely recommend A People’s Choice if your case is straightforward. Thank you to Sandy and team for helpful us get here! What a huge relief! I’m glad we had your support along the way. Made it way less stressful and way more manageable.”
Jenn C.
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Jack M.
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M. Rice
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K. Levenson
“A People Choice provided excellent support with the appropriate legal documents and filing process in a spousal property petition after my husband passed. Lawyers wanted to charge me a fortune. However, once I spoke with someone at A People’s Choice, they took on my case and guided me through every step. A People’s Choice has years of experience, which gave me a sense of trust and confidence. I always got immediate feedback from every email request. If you need probate help, I would highly recommend A People’s Choice.”
Sylvia A
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Joi C
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Mikki C
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C. Chiu
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R. Leonard
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David R.
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“After not having my call returned from a probate lawyer, I looked into doing a Spousal Property Petition myself.  A People’s Choice assisted me through the whole probate process and everything went smoothly.  When I appeared in court, I didn’t have to say a word. The judge just said, “granted.”  Using A People’s Choice I saved thousands of dollars, and I’m so glad that probate attorney didn’t return my call.  I highly recommend A People’s Choice.”
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Craig K.

Added Costs and Fees for Settling Creditors’ Claims in California Probate

If executors are usually not financially responsible for a decedent’s debt, how would said debt affect them at all? Unfortunately, there are instances in which creditors may file false claims against an estate. Thus, as an executor or personal representative, it is your responsibility to recognize these false claims and deny them.

Sometimes, the added trouble ends here. However, at times, a false claim will go to court. This is where the cost of probate increases. For example, even after an executor has denied a claim, the creditor still has the right to bring the matter to court. After the creditor files a petition, both parties now have a period of time called “discovery” to collect evidence against one another.

As you can imagine, proving probate fraud is not an easy task for someone without a legal background. Therefore, a complicated case such as this one would most likely call for a probate attorney. Further, even if the personal representative has already hired a probate lawyer and paid statutory attorneys fees, they will most likely also incur extraordinary service fees for this case. Dealing with creditors’ claims is an extraordinary service, and your attorney may or may not charge you for their time.

Keep California Probate Costs and Fees Low

Unfortunately, an indebted estate dealing with potentially fraudulent collections agencies will most likely require an attorney’s assistance. However, for simple, uncontested estates, personal representatives can keep probate costs low by avoiding hiring a lawyer. In fact, working with a registered legal document assistant such as A People’s Choice can save the estate thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees.

A People’s Choice has over 40 years’ experience helping clients with their California probate paperwork and filing their documents with the court. Plus, we offer low-cost, flat-fee packages specifically tailored to your needs. Contact us today or quick start your probate process to get started.

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