One of the main purposes of the probate estate administration process is to clear all of the decedent’s financial liabilities. This includes paying off any outstanding credit cards, taxes, bills, etc. As a general rule of thumb, these liabilities can only be recovered from the decedent’s estate. They typically do not pass on to any heirs, unless the heir has assumed responsibility for them, like through a personal guarantee or co-signing agreement.
Everybody, including public entities, are tight on money these days. Accordingly, probate courts will not enter an order closing an estate until it is satisfactorily informed that any public debts have been properly addressed. For example, the probate courts statewide specifically require (and will send checklists to reinforce this point) that the personal representative obtain a MO HealthNet Division release/waiver. The MO HealthNet Division assists low income and vulnerable citizens in MO with healthcare services. It has its roots in the federal social security act.
The HealthNet waiver is but one example of a creditor claim delaying the termination of an estate and distribution of assets. Private creditors can also do the same. Contact us with questions relating to wills, trusts, letters testamentary, letters of administration, probate, etc.