Once a Probate case has been opened a creditor of the decedent must file a claim within either four months after the Letters are issued by the Court or sixty days from the date they were notified of the decedent’s death. The creditor must file the claim with the Court and serve it on the Personal Representative or their attorney. When a creditor’s claim is received the personal representative has 3 options: ignore, reject or accept.
Ignore or Reject
If the Personal Representative chooses to ignore or reject the claim the creditor then has 90 days to file an action against the estate. However, if the claim is not rejected within 30 days of filing the claim, the creditor can sometimes deem that as a rejection. The reasons that a claim will sometimes be rejected is if the charges are invalid, they’ve made a claim against the wrong debtor (not the decedent) or charges were billed after the date of death.
California Probate Code Section 11420 states the order in which the decedent’s debts and administration expenses should be paid. The expenses of the administration of the estate should be paid first (ie mortgages, any liens, deeds of trust), funeral expenses, hospital or hospice care for the decedent’s last stay, family allowance, wage claims then any general debts (such as judgments not secured by a lien.)
The Personal Representative, or their attorney, should ask the creditor for detailed statements and bills for the claim with the total amounts, dates and specific charges. When in doubt, it is always a good idea to ask for a detailed accounting before automatically paying a claim as often times a claim can be filed for someone other than the decedent.