Do a Person's Debts Have to Be Paid After They Die?
When someone passes away, all their secured debts must be
paid. Part of the personal
representative’s job is to determine what assets to sell in order to pay those
debts. But what about unsecured
debts? Are all those debts
Washington provides a
mechanism for unsecured creditors to recover their claims from a decedents
estate. However, creditors must comply
with stringent requirements to exercise their claim.
A personal representative is required to “give notice” to
all decedent’s creditors. This can be
done in a number of ways. If a personal
representative knows who the actual creditor is, “actual notice” can be given
directly to that creditor. But sometimes
a personal representative may not know who all the creditors are. In this case, personal representatives are
able to provide “constructive notice” by publishing their notice in a legal
newspaper in the county in which the estate is being administered. Once a creditor has received notice, it has
a specific amount of time during which to present its claim.
Different statutes apply depending on the
type of notice that is made. However,
generally speaking, if the personal representative makes both actual and
constructive notice, the creditor must present its claim within the later of (1)
thirty days after the personal representative’s mailing notice to the creditor,
or (2) four months after the date of first publication of the constructive
notice. If a creditor does not make a
claim against the estate within that time, the claim is forever barred.