From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: I am the executor of my Father’s estate in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. I want to distribute the estate assets according to the will. Is there a statute of limitations, or a time period for creditors making claims against the estate? If I distribute the assets, can I be held responsible if creditors make a claim?
As you’ve guessed, your Father’s death did not end his obligation to pay unpaid bills. By taking on the job of Executor, you gain the power and responsibility to assemble his assets and pay those bills. Compared to other states, Pennsylvania is rather creditor-friendly. If you have notice from a creditor, you are expected to address the claim. That being said, creditors cannot wait forever to make their claim. You trigger a one-year statute of limitations period for claims when you properly advertise the estate.
The Lehigh County Register of Wills has the information about how to advertise the estate properly so this statue of limitations period begins. If you make a distribution of estate assets before the end of the one-year time period, and then a creditor later makes a timely claim, 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 Lehigh County probate attorney who will obtain a binding obligation on the heirs to return distributions should a valid creditor appear. Your probate lawyer is there to keep you out of trouble!
After the one-year time limit, you can make distributions and—if a creditor later makes a claim—you are not responsible. There are some exceptions, such as your obligation to personally notify the Department of Public Welfare of your father’s death and inquire about any money he may owe them and….the IRS. Make sure your Father’s taxes were paid, as the IRS never goes away!
If you have questions about Lehigh County Estate Litigation, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.