From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: I am the executor of my mother’s estate in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. I have advertised the estate and paid all the valid creditors. However, a neighbor of my mother has made a claim for $10,000 that has no validity. Can I make distribution without paying him?
The quick answer is yes, but the correct answer is that you should not.
As the executor you are free to make “at risk” distributions, meaning a distribution that may put you personally at risk. Your Delaware County Probate Lawyer aims to keep you out of trouble, and if you ignore the neighbor you could be putting yourself at risk. Pennsylvania is a rather creditor-friendly state. If you, as executor, know of a creditor’s claim made within the one-year period after you properly advertised the estate, then you are expected to address the claim. If you do not, and if you distribute all the assets, the creditor can petition to force you to account and explain why he was not paid.
Even if you convince the judge that the claim is invalid, you will have to pay for the time in court, and as you distributed all the funds, this may come out of your own pocket. Worse, if the judge finds the claim invalid, you could be paying for all the court time plus paying the $10,000 claim yourself.
Instead, you are free to have an attorney experienced in Orphans’ Court litigation file a Formal Account with the Delaware County Orphans’ Court. In this accounting your attorney will explain that there is a claim and you question its validity. You will then have a hearing where the judge will listen to both sides and make a ruling. If you follow the ruling, then you are protected.
If you have questions about Delaware County Estate Litigation, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.