As part of the probate process, any creditor who was owed money by a deceased person must be notified that the person has died. This is true in all states, including California, though the way each state approaches notification differs slightly. In California the estate administrator, sometimes known as the executor or personal representative, will have to notify creditors in various ways.
As soon as the probate case begins the estate administrator must quickly thereafter file a notice in a local newspaper. This notice serves to let any potential creditors that the estate has been opened and that they will have to file a claim with the probate court in order to try to get repaid.
If the administrator knows or reasonably should know of a specific creditor, he or she must also send an individualized notice telling that creditor of the opening of the estate. This notice will typically be sent within a couple of months of the administrator becoming appointed, or, if the administrator only later learns of the existence of the creditor, within 30 days of this discovery.
Notifying creditors is important to the probate process because any creditor who wants to get repaid has to file a claim with the court. After a certain time limits, a creditor is prevented from filing a claim and cannot get repaid. Also, the administrator cannot pay beneficiaries until all creditors have had a chance to file a claim.
Notice to creditors is just one of many specific duties that an estate administrator must properly carry out. Due to the complex nature of legal proceedings, including probates, it is best to work with an experienced and qualified probate attorney. Failure of an administrator to properly perform his or her duties could result in court sanctions and personal liability to the beneficiaries and heirs of the estate.