From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My father died a few months ago as a resident of Bucks County. I was named as executor in his Will. My siblings and I need our inheritance now to pay off some bills, but we are worried about my dad’s creditors coming forward and asking to be paid. Is there a statute of limitations for creditors to come forward? If I don’t wait, can I ever be personally responsible for the estate debts?
Your father’s death did not end his obligation to pay unpaid bills. By taking on the job of executor, you have the power and duty to marshal his assets and pay his outstanding bills. Compared to other states, Pennsylvania is creditor-friendly. If you have notice of a creditor, you are expected to address the claim. But, creditors cannot wait forever to make their claim. When you properly advertise your Dad’s estate, the tolling begins on a one-year statute of limitations for creditors to come forward.
A good estate administration attorney has the information about how to advertise the estate properly so this statute of limitations period begins. If you make a distribution of estate assets before the end of the one-year time period, and a creditor later makes a claim within the one-year window, you as the Executor are responsible to address that debt. If it is valid, and you cannot recover enough money from the heirs to pay the bill, the creditor can recover the debt from you.
That is why it is important that you have an experienced Bucks County probate attorney who will obtain a binding obligation on the heirs to return distributions should a valid creditor appear. After the one-year time limit, you can make distributions and if a creditor later makes a claim, you are not personally responsible.
There are some exceptions, such as your obligation to personally notify the Department of Public Welfare and the IRS of your father’s death and inquire about any money he may owe them. Make sure your father’s taxes were paid, as the IRS never goes away!
If you have questions about Bucks County Estate Litigation, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.