Can You Dispute a Creditor Claim Against an Estate?

Dealing with the financial aspects of an estate can be a challenging and emotionally charged process, especially when creditors come forward with claims against the deceased person's estate. When creditors assert their rights, it's important to understand your options and responsibilities as an executor or beneficiary.

Understanding creditor claims

Creditor claims are debts owed by the deceased individual at the time of their death. These claims can include outstanding medical bills, credit card debt, mortgages, personal loans and any other unpaid obligations.

In most jurisdictions, creditor claims are typically paid from the deceased person's estate before beneficiaries receive their inheritances. Creditors have a specific period within which to file their claims against the estate. This is typically several months from the date of death, and they must provide documentation supporting the claim.

Disputing creditor claims

If you believe a creditor's claim is invalid or excessive, you have the right to dispute it. Typically, there are three situations in which creditor claims may be invalid. First, they may be barred from filing a claim if it’s been longer than six months from the date of death. Second, if the claim wasn’t presented in writing, it may be barred. Finally, if the debt didn’t belong to the deceased, it can be disputed. This can happen in cases of identity theft or mistaken identity.

As of April 2023, Ohio’s laws about presenting claims in writing have changed. Prior to the amendment, creditors could present claims in writing to the executor, the executor and the probate court or in “ordinary mail” sent to the decedent which is received by the executor. (For example, a credit card bill sent to the deceased’s address, which the executor received.)

Now, creditor claims may be presented to the executor, an attorney identified as counsel for the executor or to the executor or their probate counsel. In the third instance, it doesn’t matter to whom the claim is addressed so long as it is within the time limit.

If you’re an executor and you receive a creditor claim, carefully review the claim. If you believe the claim is unjustified, gather evidence. This might include documents, receipts or any other relevant information.

In some cases, a simple discussion with the creditor may resolve the issue. Explain your position, provide evidence and see if you can reach a mutually agreeable solution. If not, working with a skilled probate attorney can help you resolve the issue.

For more information about creditor claims and the probate process, reach out to James Bart Leonardi, LLC today.

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