How to File a Claim Against the Estate of a Deceased

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

How to File a Claim Against the Estate of a Deceased

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

Filing a claim against an estate requires you to confirm the debt is owed by the deceased and then complete and file a claim form. If your claim isn't filed correctly, your claim could be dismissed. When someone dies, an estate is created to gather the assets of the deceased. The estate will then transfer assets to the heirs. However, before the assets are transferred to heirs, the estate will have to pay off any outstanding debts.

Woman wearing glasses and leather jacket holding a pen in one hand and using her laptop with the other

If the decedent owes you money, you can file a claim against the estate. While this can be a complex process, you deserve every opportunity to have the debt paid back to you, which is why it might be more beneficial to seek out professional assistance to help get the debt you're owed repaid.

Find the Correct Probate Court

The probate court handles issues involving a deceased person's estate, along with potential disputes regarding outstanding debts, issues with heirs, etc.

The probate process can occur in different courts. For example, the executor or personal representative of the estate can file for probate in the county where the decedent lived or owned property. So it's important to find out where the decedent's estate is being probated. You may have to call different courts and provide the decedent's name to determine which court will handle your claim against the estate.

Confirm the Debt

Before you file a claim against the estate, you must first gather documentation proving the debt exists. Whether you hold a promissory note, a bill, or some other contract exists, having this documentation handy will ensure your claim is accepted by the probate court.

Keep in mind that if you have no proof of outstanding debt, the probate court will likely refuse to hear your claim.

Complete the Claim Form

Some probate courts may require you to visit the courthouse in person to file your claim. Others will allow you the option of filing your claim online or by mail.

While different probate courts have slightly unique forms, they require similar information, including the probate case number and your personal information. This form will also require that you prove your debt, which is why it is important that you have supporting documentation as noted above. Remember that proof of the initial debt is not sufficient. You will also need to prove that the deceased failed to repay the debt in full before his or her death.

The form may also require that you describe the debt. For example, if the debt is a loan, then you will want to explain what type of loan you made—personal, residential, automobile, etc.

File the Claim Form

Once you've completed the form, it's time to file it with the probate court. Depending on the court's rules, you may file online, by mail, or submit in person. Once your claim is filed, make sure you get a certified copy of the filing for your own records. This will ensure you have access to the estate's records.

When you are in a position of needing to file a claim against an estate to have a debt repaid, it's a good idea to seek the services of an experienced probate attorney to help you file your claim. This is a complex process you should not attempt alone.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.