How To Get Owed Money from a Dead or Deceased Person
Here is a situation that many find themselves in. You lent someone money and now they have deceased. Considering that they are now no longer living, how would you go about filing a claim against their estate and recouping the money or property owed to you?
The legal source pertaining to this subject matter is Article 18 of the New York Surrogate’s Court Procedures Act. Each subsection of this statute begins with “NY SURR CT PRO §” and provides helpful information such as the proceedings to determine if a claim against the estate is valid and enforceable, method of service upon the fiduciary, suspension of statute of limitations, as well as other helpful tidbits involving this area of law. The text is surprisingly simple to read so you don’t need to have a law degree to understand the concept.
For illustration purposes, consider the following example: You have a close friend named Carl. Carl lost his job and is in a financial bind. Although he owned some property, his assets weren’t very liquid. As his friend, you allowed him to borrow a sizeable amount of money. You helped with his day-to-day bills and you even footed his medical bills time to time. Carl dies. Being that you were the only dependable person in his life, you went ahead and paid his funeral bill. Can you now be reimbursed from his estate?
In order to be considered a creditor of the estate and be reimbursed, you must make a verified claim against the estate under Article 18 of the New York Surrogate’s Court Procedures Act.
Here is what you would need to do:
- You will need to make a claim against the estate in writing. The claim must be “verified” in that it must be notarized. State how much money you are owed, explain the source of the debt (ie the facts upon which the claim is based), enclose a copy of an invoice, if available, and state whether any payments on this debt were ever paid out to you.
- To make a claim against a decedent’s estate, an executor or administrator must first be appointed by the court. Once a fiduciary is appointed, make sure to make a claim within seven months of the issuance of letters testamentary or letters of administration. At the minimum, put the executor or administrator of the estate on notice that a debt is due and owing.
- The verified claim must be mailed to the fiduciary’s residence by certified mail return receipt requested or personally served upon them. It cannot be emailed, faxed, or sent by regular mail or express mail. The statute is very clear in that the only acceptable service upon the fiduciary is by either of the two described methods.
- Upon delivery of the claim, the personal representative/fiduciary has ninety days (90) to accept the debt or reject it. In the event the fiduciary rejects your claim, he or she must state the reasons why.
- If you do not hear from the fiduciary within 90 days from the date of delivery or he or she fails to allow/accept your claim within that window, consider the claim rejected.
- If accepted, you will be reimbursed. Don’t lose sleep over not getting paid immediately. You can typically expect to get paid during the settlement of the estate.
Here is a sample of a verified claim: Sample estate surrogates court verified claim
What if my Claim is Rejected?
If no response is forthcoming or the claim is rejected in writing, and ninety days have passed, you can move forward by filing an Order to Show Cause (“OSC”) in Surrogate’s Court. An OSC is a petition in which describe the circumstances upon which the debt is due, and place the burden on the executor to tell the court why the debt is not valid or should not be paid. By filing an OSC, you are essentially asking the court to review your claim and decide its validity.
A funeral creditor receives priority over all debts of the estate. If you paid for decedent’s funeral bill out-of-pocket, you are a first priority creditor and are entitled to be reimbursed as soon as any money comes into the estate. If the executor fails to voluntarily acknowledge your standing, you must make a claim against the estate.
If you need to make a claim against an estate or need to defend against one, contact a New York estate lawyer immediately. Our law firm is focused on probate and estate matters, including asserting claims and defending against them. Our consultations are free of charge, let us help you. Contact us at 646-233-0826.
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