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Learn how to manage mortgages and other debts in probate

As discussed in prior posts, estate administrators are tasked with overseeing that all bills of the decedent and the decedent's estate are paid.

The more complex an estate is, the longer it can take to complete the probate process. But a conscientious estate administrator can take certain steps to shorten the time frame from beginning to end.

Even before the estate administrator or probate attorney initiates the probate process, he or she should gather documents that reflect the decedent's financial liabilities. Examples include the following:

-- Vehicle loans (including for boats and personal watercraft)

-- Credit cards and open accounts

-- Cable bills

-- Cellphone bills

-- Open lines of credit

-- Personal loans

-- Loans taken out against pension accounts or life insurance policies

If the decedent had outstanding student loans, the estate administrator needs to verify the status of each one. Many student loans are discharged upon the death of the indebted student, but others are not. Some with parents or others as cosigners will automatically default to the cosigner to settle the obligations.

Beneficiaries of the decedent's estate aren't responsible for paying out-of-pocket final expenses. These costs are absorbed by and paid out of estate proceeds by the estate administrator.

When there is property involved, there will be ongoing expenses for the estate administrator to keep up with as well. They may include:

-- County and/or municipal property taxes

-- Mortgages

-- Homeowner association dues

-- Condo fees

-- Utility bills

-- Storage fees

The above are administrative expenses that need to be paid monthly, quarterly or annually. Beneficiaries often assume payment of these expense until probate is officially filed with the court.

Sometimes an heir wants to keep an asset — like a house or a car — but there is an outstanding loan against it, which could cause it to be liquidated. The beneficiary may instead choose to pay off the debt or keep current with the payments to avoid this scenario.

Turn to the attorney handling the probate of the estate for guidance on any financial matters related to the estate administration process.

Source: The Balance, "Dealing With Debts and Mortgages in Probate," Julie Garber, May 06, 2017

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