The creditors of the probate estate are the parties owed money by the deceased. You may have noticed the estate notices in the legal section of the newspaper. South Carolina probate law requires that Form 370 PC must be sent to a newspaper of general circulation in the county directing the paper to publish the notice once a week for three successive weeks if the probate action is started within one year of the date of death. The Personal Representative (executor of the estate) is required to see that the notice is sent to the newspaper but the Probate Court may handle this for the executor. The Personal Representative should send a copy of the notice to all of the known creditors of the decedent. This notice starts the very important statue of limitations within which a creditor must file his claim against the estate or it is forever barred.
In order to collect from the estate, a creditor must file their claim either before
60 days from the mailing of the notice to them from the personal representative or 8 months from the date of the first publication of the newspaper notice. Claims of creditors of which the personal representative has no knowledge are barred if not filed within 8 months from the date the first notice is published in the newspaper. All claims against the estate are barred if not filed with the probate court within one year of the date of death.
The South Carolina Probate Code provides specific requirements for a creditor to file a claim against the estate. In addition, there is a specific order in which the personal representative is required to use the assets of the estate to pay valid claims. If a claim is not filed correctly and in a timely fashion, the personal representative has the right to deny the claim and the creditor will never get his money.
South Carolina has a form, 371PC, that a creditor should, but is not absolutely required, use to file his notice of claim with the Probate Court and the creditor should also send the notice to the personal representative. A creditor using another method to file his claim will be sent the correct form to file by the probate court. After reviewing the claims, the personal representative will either pay, if there is money in the estate, or deny the claim. If a claim is rejected, the personal representative is required to notify the creditor using form 372PC. If a claim is rejected, the creditor only has 30 days from the mailing of the notice of rejection in which to file Form 373 PC which is a Petition for the allowance of a claim against the estate. The probate court will then have a hearing to determine whether to allow the claim and order the personal representative to pay the creditor. The Personal Representative should check routinely with the probate court to see if any claims have been filed. Most South Carolina probate courts will send a copy to the Personal Representative but there are some that do not.
Should I pay the claims against the estate? The executor is not personally responsible for paying the claims against the estate out of their own money. You are responsible for evaluating the claims and paying any legitimate ones if there are sufficient funds in the estate. If the deceased owed substantial debts, such as credit cards and medical bills, then you may want to consult with a probate attorney prior to paying any claims against the estate. Often an attorney can negotiate lower payments and save the heirs more money than the cost of the attorney fee.
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