Why do Wisconsin Estates Publish “Notice to Creditors” in the Newspaper?

pexels-photo-518543-300x200Assuming you are the type of person who still reads local print newspapers, you might wonder what those “Notice to Creditors” you sometimes see in the back pages mean. These notices are actually part of the probate administration process in Wisconsin. While it might seem antiquated to rely on print notices in the digital age, they do serve a critical legal function.

Informing Creditors of the Deadline to File Their Claims

When someone dies, their debts do not die with them. A creditor retains the right to seek payment of the debt from the decedent’s estate. But the creditor may not know the decedent has passed away, and conversely, the personal representative of the estate may not be aware of all of the decedent’s creditors.

For this reason, the personal representative is legally required to publish a notice to creditors in the newspaper. The notice itself must contain some basic information about the estate, including the decedent’s dates of birth and death, the county where the probate estate has been opened, and the deadline for filing any creditor claims.

The deadline is the critical piece of information. To ensure that probate estates are administered and closed in a timely manner, state law imposes strict deadlines to file creditor claims. The probate court (or registrar) will set the deadline by order, which is “not less than 3 nor more than 4 months from the date of the order.”

As a general rule, any unsecured creditor claim filed after the deadline stated in the notice is barred. In plain English, the personal representative is under no obligation to pay a late claim. There are multiple exceptions to this rule, however, including claims related to funeral expenses or unpaid taxes.

A creditor may also pursue an untimely claim if the personal representative “knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, of the existence of the potential claim,” failed to notify the creditor, and the creditor did not learn of the estate’s existence until at least 31 days before the notice period expired. The reason for this exception should be obvious – so personal representatives cannot avoid valid claims by ignoring them and hoping the creditor will not find out about the estate. In fact, a good personal representative will directly notify any known creditors of the estate separate from the required publication.

Contact a Madison Estate Planning Attorney Today

The estate planning lawyers of Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC practice law in the areas of Probate, Wills, Estate Planning, and Trusts. We assist clients in and around Madison, Wisconsin with all matters related to estate planning, trusts, and probate matters. Our dedicated attorneys will even make house calls if you are unable to come to our office.

To attend a free estate planning workshop or to receive our client planner to assess your estate planning mindset, contact our office by calling (608) 268-5751 or use our online contact form.