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Overview of the claims process in Texas estates

One of the most important part of estate administration is the reviewing and paying of claims against a deceased Houston, Texas, resident's estate. After all, very few people leave this world with owing absolutely no money to anyone, especially if they have a final doctor or hospital bill that they incurred during their last illness.

There are certain rules creditors have to follow when someone who owes them money has died and has opened an estate. Generally speaking, it is up to the court and the personal representative of the estate to make sure creditors get legally required notice that the estate has been opened, as the creditor needs the opportunity to file a claim within the time allowed by law.

Once they have notice, should the creditor elect to file a claim, the creditor has to submit it either directly to the personal representative or the court. The personal representative then has a certain amount of time to review the claim and decide whether to pay it as a legitimate debt or reject it for some reason. Should the personal representative not act, the court will assume the intention was to reject the claim.

The creditor then has 90 days to contest the action via a formal lawsuit or will give up rights to pursue the claim. If the creditor wins, then the court will treat the claim as if it had been acknowledged at the outset and will calculate the debt when distributing the estate's property.

There are a couple of caveats to this rule. For one, some creditors, like banks holding mortgages, enjoy privileged status and are allowed to go about collecting their debt in other ways, including attempting foreclosure or some other commonly accepted collection practice. Also, these rules are not mandatory for "independent administration" estates, which are estates that involve minimal or no court supervision. A creditor claiming against an estate that is being independently administered may elect to file a lawsuit at any point in the process.

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