We often consult with people asking about probate in Florida shortly after they’ve lost a loved one. It’s really tough to find out what’s been going on in someone’s life, especially financially. We keep financial information so close to our vest that it can be a true puzzle to find out who is owed money when a person dies.

I saw a recent article in the paper stating that 31 million people believe they will never be out of credit card debt. Ten percent of Americans believe that they will die in debt. This is usually compounded by the ambulance ride, emergency room, and other doctor’s bills that come along with passing away in America.

What does all of this mean for those we leave behind? What does this mean for those of us planning for the inevitable?

When it comes to planning, probate avoidance is the number one request. The primary goal is to make it tough for creditors to collect from the assets of the estate. Under Fla. Stat. 733.607 creditors may be satisfied from a trust that was revocable at the time of the decedent’s death. This means a revocable trust can only make it difficult, not impossible to collect. It’s crucial to file that Notice of Trust to get the clock running.

If you think about it, it’s fair to shout to the world “If you think you’re owed something, speak up now.” The creditor would have to petition for probate, pay the filing fee, get a custodian appointed- it’s a pain. Because of this, most won’t pursue it. If a creditor is owed enough, and they are aware that there are assets available to satisfy their claim, they may just be willing to front all that cost. The privacy offered by trusts also helps by making it unclear if there’s enough to pay a creditor.

We can help avoid all this confusion before someone passes away.

After we die, creditors who are entitled to payment from non-exempt Florida probate assets, must make a claim. If they do this properly, and there is no objection to the claim, they must be paid. It’s not a free for all, though. There’s a schedule of priority under Fla. Stat. 733.707. Where do credit cards fall? Dead last. Class 8 is where all general unsecured creditors fall.

Before you go paying off your recently deceased loved one’s bills, you should consult a Florida probate attorney. We can help figure out whether anyone is entitled to payment, from what assets, and when they should be paid.

 

 

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