Trust Fund through Probate

by Hatty

My husband died almost a year ago there was no probate until his brother forced me to open one tho acquire shares in a business that reverted over to me when he died. I had to open up a probate of $9,000,. Am I required to pay off his crdit card bills if no one contacts are files a suit against me. He had no life insurance or other assetts. Can I pay our taxes out of the probate trust for last year? Do i get to keep any of that money.

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Mar 17, 2012
Trust Fund through Probate

If your husband's estate is going through the probate process, his creditors, including the credit card companies he owes money to, are entitled to file claims against the assets your husband owned at the time of his death so that they can get paid all or a portion of what they are owed. Ordinarily, they do this as part of the probate process, not by filing lawsuits. The probate process is initiated by whomever your husband named as his executor in his will.

Sometimes, to pay the claims, the executor must sell some of the deceased's assets or borrow money against one or more of those assets. However, once as many claims as possible have been paid, the remaining assets in the deceased's estate are distributed to whomever is legally entitled to them. Meanwhile, with one exception, if there is not enough money in the estate to pay all of the deceased's debts, the creditors who didn't get paid or who did not receive everything they are owed, are out of luck. The exception: If any of the outstanding debts are joint debts -- debts owed by you as well as your husband -- the two of you signed for a loan or you got a credit card together, for example. In either instance, you are obligated to pay what remains and if you don't, the creditors can send your debt to collections, sue you for the money, etc.

The answer I just provided is a relatively simple one. However, given the issues you raise in your question, your situation may not be quite as straightforward. For example, you mention a business, taxes and a brother-in-law who appears to be interested in what your husband left behind. For these reasons, I recommend that you schedule an appointment with a probate law attorney in your area who can take a closer look at the details of your husband's estate than I can given the limited amount of information you have shared with me and who can then advise you about your rights and obligations and any actions you may need to take. You do not want to make mistakes that might create legal or financial problems in your life, so buying an hour or two of a probate attorney's time would be money well spent. Meanwhile, I also recommend that you read our deceased person’s debt FAQ.

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