Notice to Creditors
Why Do You Publish Notice to Creditors in a Probate?
Under Washington law, if a personal representative properly publishes notice to creditors, then if a creditor of the decedent does not request payment within four months after the date of first publication of the notice, the creditor is not allowed to collect the debt the decedent owed the creditor (if the debt is unsecured).
For a creditor to lose its right to payment of its debt through this notice process, the personal representative must also give actual written notice to the creditor, if the law considers the creditor “reasonably ascertainable,” and the creditor may then have additional time to present a claim.
If a creditor timely requests payment of its debt and uses the proper procedure, the law also provides how the personal representative is to deal with paying the claim. If the decedent’s debts are greater than the decedent’s assets the statue provides which creditors the personal representative is to pay first.
If the personal representative believes the creditor’s debt is not valid, probate law provides how the personal representative is to reject the claim. The law then sets out the process for the creditor to respond to the personal representative by filing a law suit if he believes the decedent did, in fact owe the debt.
You should note a similar process is available to the trustee of a revocable living trust after the death of the trustor.
Because of the importance of properly handling creditors to obtain finality in a probate, a personal representative should get good guidance from a probate attorney shortly after death.
Elizabeth A. Perry, a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, has been helping Clark County residents with their estate planning needs for over 20 years. Her practice emphasizes wills, trusts, probate and Medicaid planning. You are invited to call her to schedule an appointment or sign up for a class at (360) 816-2485. ©2016 Elizabeth A. Perry
(The above should not be construed as specific legal advice and is intended for general information purposes only)