What is a personal representative’s duty to pay off old debts of the deceased?

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What is a personal representative’s duty to pay off old debts of the deceased?

My dad died last year and I’m his estates personal representative. I have received a couple of notices from collection agencies for debts from about 8 years ago. There is no proof in his files that he owes this debt. I checked all 3 credit reports and the debt is not listed on them. What is the statue of limitations on debt? Am I required to pay? One is a hospital bill and one is a credit card. Can they come after me for the money. I want to close out his estate and am afraid to do so until I find out my obligation.

Asked on October 30, 2010 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Do you have an attorney helping you?  You should consider it even if it is just for consultation.  As you know, you have an obligation as the personal representative of the estate to pay off the debts of an estate before you can distribute the remainder to the beneficiaries.  It is my understanding that the statute of limitations on a credit card debt is four years in California but I would double check that.  As for the hospital bill, that is tricky but generally about the same amount of time.  But again, I would double check with an attorney in your state.  The personal representative of an estate has a fiduciary duty and that can get you in to personal trouble if you do not figure this out before you close the estate. Good luck.       


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