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Four Mistakes To Avoid When Dealing With Creditors In Probate In Massachusetts


Debt is a huge concern for many people and families. According to the most recent data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Americans have a collective $17 trillion of consumer debt. Dealing with debt (creditor claims) is often a key part of the probate process. Too many people make avoidable errors when handling creditors in estate administration. In this article, our Greater Boston area probate attorneys highlights four of the most common mistakes that need to be avoided when dealing with creditors in the probate process in Massachusetts.

  1. Waiting to Long to Open Probate at All (A Creditor Might Do It) 

A common misstep when dealing with creditors during probate in Massachusetts is delaying the probate process. Many assume they have unlimited time to open a probate estate, but this misconception could prove to be detrimental. Massachusetts  law allows creditors to open an estate if the deceased’s Personal Representetive named under the Will or some other person(s) that have prioriity under the statute to seek appointment  does not do so within a reasonable time, which is generally on or before the one year anniversary of the date of death. A creditor-initiated probate process could significantly complicate matters and lead to less control over the estate. 

  1. Lack of Organization—Not Understanding Who Owes/is Owed What 

Another major error often made is a lack of organization. Personal Representatives often underestimate the importance of thoroughly understanding the deceased’s financial situation. It’s essential to gather all pertinent financial documents, such as bank statements, tax returns, and bills, to determine the total assets and debts of the estate. Creating a comprehensive inventory of the decedent’s assets and liabilities helps ensure no debt is overlooked or assets unidentified. 

  1. Failing to Notify Creditors in a Timely Manner 

Proper notification of creditors is a key element of the probate process in Massachusetts. Failing to provide timely notice to known or reasonably ascertainable creditors can lead to severe legal implications. Under Massachusetts law, Personal Representatives have a duty to inform creditors of the deceased’s passing, allowing them the opportunity to file claims for any debts owed.   This is generally done by publishing the Citation issued by the Probate Court that notifies the public that a Petition has been filed and a date upon which to object to either the allowance of a Will and/or the appointment of an individual(s) as fiduciary(ies) of the estate. 

  1. Blindly Paying All Creditor Claims Without a Careful Review 

Finally, one mistake that could significantly impact the estate’s value is blindly paying all creditor claims without a careful review. Personal Representatives must exercise due diligence in assessing the legitimacy of all claims. Not all debts may be valid, and some may even be past the statute of limitations for collection. A comprehensive review of each claim can protect the estate from paying illegitimate or time-barred debts, preserving more of the estate’s value for the rightful heirs or beneficiaries.

Get Help From a Probate Lawyer in Massachusetts

At Fisher Law LLC, our Boston-based probate attorneys are diligent, experienced advocates for clients. If you have any specific questions or concerns about dealing with creditor claims in the probate process, we are here to help. Contact us today to arrange your fully private initial consultation. We provide probate law representation throughout the Greater Boston area, including Suffolk County, Norfolk County, Bristol County, Middlesex County, and Plymouth County.



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