Checking The Probate: Why It Is Not As Uncomfortable A Process As It Sounds
When someone passes away and has had the mindset to set up probate for his/her estate in advance to his/her death, there is public record of this. In fact, there has to be public record of it because the reason for probate is to make creditors and debt collectors aware of the fact that a borrower has passed away and that funds from the estate are about to be disbursed. If someone owes you money and passes away, you are entitled to collect on that debt from that person's estate. To do so, you need to check the probate. It is not as difficult or as uncomfortable a process as it sounds, and it goes something like this.
Go to Probate Court Records
The clerk of courts or the probate court clerk (depending on how small your county court is where you live) is where you want to go. In some other counties, you may have to check with the department of public records. Ask about probate court records, and then specify the name of the deceased to see if probate records have been filed under that name. If they have, you can request a copy of the records, as well as any pertinent filing dates for claims against the estate for debts unpaid.
File Your Claim Against the Estate
If you have a claim for any unpaid debt involving the deceased, you will need to file it in a timely manner. Once everything from the estate has been declared "settled" in probate court, you cannot make a claim because the remaining assets have been disbursed to the heirs. If you need to, hire a probate lawyer whose services include assistance for filing a claim and making an appearance in court on your business's behalf. (Note: Any personal money lent to the deceased prior to his/her passing is not viewed as a valid debt in probate court unless you received something in writing from the deceased and have proof of payments on the debt or loan.) Make sure you have documentation of the money owed, or your claim may be ignored or discharged.
Wait for the Money
The probate/estate attorney for the deceased must first prove the will as valid, and then present to the courts the list of debts owed by the deceased. If none of these debts are contested, all will be paid within a year after the deceased has passed. Most of the debts are paid much sooner. As long as your claim to money owed is valid and uncontested, all you have to do is sit back and wait for the check.