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  1. #1

    Default How to Recover Money from an Estate for a Decedent's Unpaid Bill

    My question involves estate proceedings in the state of: California

    A few years ago, a client owed me just over $1,000 for services I rendered with him. When I go to collect, I found out that he actually died. I thought it was a prank to avoid paying and so I filed a small claims case before the statues expired. When the Sheriff served him, the wife answered the door and informed the Sheriff that her husband had passed away.

    And so, I found out what paperwork I needed to file to put a claim on the estate; which I did April 28, 2014 and I sent notification to the wife about the claim. When I view the case through the courts, I see that I am listed as a Claimant and no one else is listed as a claimant. However, I have not received any payment in the mail.

    What is my next step and chain of action? How do I get the ball moving in order to get the wife to pay out my claim on the case?

  2. #2
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    Jan 2006
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    Default Re: My Client Died and Owes Me Money.i Am a Claimant on Estate.now What

    You can review the file (the complete file) and attempt to determine where the probate action stands. You can review the file to determine the executor/personal representative / administrator of the estate and inquire with them as to the status of the probate action. If you review the file you may be able to determine if there is an attorney acting in some capacity for the estate and inquire with them


    or you can wait and see what happens. That is quite a long time for probate to be open so I, myself, would not consider the last suggestion as my first choice.

    the wife, herself, would not be paying you anything. The payment would come from the estate. She may be a controlling entity of the estate (executor etc) and direct money on behalf of the estate but the money would not be coming from Actually her.

  3. #3
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    Mar 2013
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    18,170

    Default Re: My Client Died and Owes Me Money.i Am a Claimant on Estate.now What

    When you "view the case through the courts" what, exactly, are you viewing?

    Are you reading the case file at the courthouse? If you haven't done that I suggest you do so.

    Whether you will every see your money has a lot to do with the progress of the probate file and whether the estate has any money left over when priority debts are paid.

    As an unsecured creditor you were at the bottom of the priority list.

    If all you did almost two years ago was file the DE-172 or its equivalent and didn't figure out how to properly follow up you might have eliminated any chance of recovery.

    However, if the widow did not properly handle creditors then you might still be able to seek recovery from her.

    Read the case file and report what you find.

    Oh, one more thing, was the debt a cash deal with nothing in writing?

  4. #4

    Default Re: My Client Died and Owes Me Money.i Am a Claimant on Estate.now What

    There is a lawyer attached to the proceedings. Maybe I will look him up online and check with him about getting paid.

    Also, I am sure there is money in the estate, because the guy owned his own business with a multi-million dollar house with loads of money.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: My Client Died and Owes Me Money.i Am a Claimant on Estate.now What

    Quote Quoting ChopChop
    View Post
    There is a lawyer attached to the proceedings. Maybe I will look him up online and check with him about getting paid.

    Also, I am sure there is money in the estate, because the guy owned his own business with a multi-million dollar house with loads of money.
    That doesn't mean that the estate has/had any money. The house may have passed to his wife outside of the estate. Any life insurance would have passed outside of the estate. Even his bank accounts (if they have beneficiaries) could have passed outside of his estate. My mother has set up her estate so that everything passes outside of her estate.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: My Client Died and Owes Me Money.i Am a Claimant on Estate.now What

    States typically have laws allowing a creditor to potentially reach certain assets that pass outside of probate, if an estate has insufficient assets to pay its debts. For example,
    Quote Quoting California Probate Code, Sec. 9653.
    (a) On application of a creditor of the decedent or the estate, the personal representative shall commence and prosecute an action for the recovery of real or personal property of the decedent for the benefit of creditors if the personal representative has insufficient assets to pay creditors and the decedent during lifetime did any of the following with respect to the property:

    (1) Made a conveyance of the property, or any right or interest in the property, that is voidable as to creditors under the Uniform Voidable Transactions Act (Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 3439) of Title 2 of Part 2 of Division 4 of the Civil Code).

    (2) Made a gift of the property in view of impending death.

    (3) Made a direction to transfer a vehicle, undocumented vessel, manufactured home, mobilehome, commercial coach, truck camper, or floating home to a designated beneficiary on the decedent's death pursuant to Section 18102.2 of the Health and Safety Code, or Section 5910.5 or 9916.5 of the Vehicle Code, and the property has been transferred as directed.

    (b) A creditor making application under this section shall pay such part of the costs and expenses of the suit and attorney's fees, or give an undertaking to the personal representative for that purpose, as the personal representative and the creditor agree, or, absent an agreement, as the court or judge orders.

    (c) The property recovered under this section shall be sold for the payment of debts in the same manner as if the decedent had died seized or possessed of the property. The proceeds of the sale shall be applied first to payment of the costs and expenses of suit, including attorney's fees, and then to payment of the debts of the decedent in the same manner as other property in possession of the personal representative. After all the debts of the decedent have been paid, the remainder of the proceeds shall be paid to the person from whom the property was recovered. The property may be sold in its entirety or in such portion as necessary to pay the debts.
    And for living trusts,
    Quote Quoting California Probate Code, Sec. 19001.
    (a) Upon the death of a settlor, the property of the deceased settlor that was subject to the power of revocation at the time of the settlor's death is subject to the claims of creditors of the deceased settlor's probate estate and to the expenses of administration of the probate estate to the extent that the deceased settlor's probate estate is inadequate to satisfy those claims and expenses.

    (b) The deceased settlor, by appropriate direction in the trust instrument, may direct the priority of sources of payment of debts among subtrusts or other gifts established by the trust at the deceased settlor's death. Notwithstanding this subdivision, no direction by the settlor shall alter the priority of payment, from whatever source, of the matters set forth in Section 11420 which shall be applied to the trust as it applies to a probate estate.

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