On November 21, 2017, singer David Cassidy passed away from internal organ failure. It was a shock to his family and his fans, and it ignited a probate process that could go on for quite some time. In January 2018, a law firm out of Florida filed a lawsuit against Cassidy's estate claiming that the singer still owed $19,000 in legal fees. This simple story has several points that are important to understand when it comes to an estate clearing probate.
No estate clears probate in any state until that estate has satisfied as much of its existing debts as possible. In the case of David Cassidy, his estate cannot clear probate until this lawsuit is completed and the debt is paid. It is possible that the law firm would take a settlement to clear the debt quickly, but if this goes to court then it will be months before the estate passes through probate. If other lawsuits pop up, then that will delay the process even more.
Each state has its priority list when it comes to satisfying debts for an estate while still in probate. Judgments such as the one that could be awarded to the law firm in their lawsuit often take precedent of items such as credit card debt. But it is important to understand that every creditor that is owed money by an estate is given their chance to state their case. Whether it is by a court judgment or an account in good standing, every creditor will get their say when the probate court goes through its process.
It is entirely possible that the last assets from David Cassidy's estate will be used to satisfy this judgment, if one is handed down, and that would leave nothing for any remaining creditors. The probate court will rule that assets be liquidated to pay off any debts, which means that family members who would have inherited homes and cash may never see what David Cassidy intended to provide for them.
Creditors of an estate must contact the probate court within a pre-determined period of time to lay claim to money they are owed. The process varies slightly from state to state, but the normal process is that the probate court sets a deadline and that deadline must be followed. When an action such as a lawsuit stalls probate, it can act like an extended deadline for creditors who are still searching their records to see if the deceased owed them any money.
The best way to understand the probate process is to see it in action, and we get that chance with the estate of the late David Cassidy. The timetable for getting his estate through probate has now been extended, and it is possible that his beneficiaries might have to watch their potential inheritance used to satisfy the debts of the estate before they get any part of it.