Settling the estate of a family member is often time-consuming and complicated. The average person only deals with the legal side of a death once or twice in his or her life and each estate is different, making it difficult to prepare for estate management. One of the most stressful parts of handling an estate is dealing with outstanding debts. After a person has passed away and the creditors and credit bureaus are notified of the death by the executor of the estate, most creditors will begin contacting responsible parties. During the probate process, the assets of the decedent are distributed to beneficiaries and paid to creditors who have filed claims in the state in which the decedent resided. Being aware of common estate debts can help you and your family prepare for dealing with potential creditors.

Unpaid Medical Treatment

It is not unusual for your loved one’s last medical treatment to go unpaid until after the individual passes away. Medical treatment that is not paid can be emergency room care, home health visits, or nursing home costs. Individuals who receive Medi-Cal benefits may have a claim made against their estate. However, if the decedent’s home is lived in by a surviving spouse, child, or sibling, an exception may be made. A probate attorney is best able to determine what property will be affected by medical bills and what is exempt.

Funeral Expenses

One of the first expenses to be paid by an estate are the funeral expenses. In many cases, the beneficiaries of the estate or other family members must pay the cost of the funeral before the estate is settled. When this happens, the estate is then asked to reimburse the individual who paid the burial costs. It is important to make a claim for reimbursement as early as possible if the estate is small to avoid other creditors being paid leaving nothing for funeral expense reimbursement. The family may also be able to receive reimbursement for any additional memorial services that are held as long as the amount spent was reasonable.

Federal and State Taxes

The decedent’s taxes are filed by their executor often with the assistance of an attorney. Taxes on income that was earned prior to death are owed along with estate taxes. Federal taxes are given priority over state taxes that are owed and if the decedent owned a business or has a complex tax return to file. There is currently no state estate tax on inheritances for residents of California, but the estate is still responsible for paying any tax debts that are owed prior to distributing money to the estate’s beneficiaries and for federal estate tax.

Contact an Attorney

Distributing and managing an estate is a daunting task that requires a great deal of time along with a lot of patience. Settling an estate is prolonged when mistakes are made and one of the best ways to avoid costly errors is to contact a qualified probate attorney. MMZ LAW understands the importance of proper estate administration and we are able to help you the process. Contact our conveniently located Claremont office at 909-256-6702 to schedule a FREE consultation. We are located in the surrounding cities of Upland, Pomona and  La Verne. We cover counties of San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange County.



341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of trust and estate, elder law, va benefits, special needs, conservatorship, trust administration and probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont, but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.