Generally the executor is not liable for the debts of the estate. The executor does have to follow the statutory priorities for distribution of any assets, and if the executor distributes any assets without paying priority expenses, the creditor might have cause to come after the executor. But if you distribute assets and pay debts in the order required by law, you would have no personal liability.
This answer is for general purposes only, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship.
So long as the executor follows the law in distributing assets and paying liabilities, the executor will not personally have to pay debts if the assets of the estate are not enough to pay the liabilities. Be very careful about sending out the correct notices to debtors of the estate, and do not distribute property until you are sure there are enough funds to pay what debts there are. Remember, debts come first, and there are specific rules as to the priority of the property of the estate which should be liquidated to pay them. If the executor ends up having to sell property to pay debts, he or she needs to be aware of these rules of priority, as the persons who were otherwise supposed to get the property will have a cause of action against the executor if the executor does not cover all of his or her bases. Keeping the beneficiaries aware of what is going on and why is always a good idea too, as probate cases are some of the most contentious cases out there.
Finally, if the debts of the estate exceed the assets, and the deceased has a spouse or minor children, the debts may be avoided by the filing of a Petition for Year's support.
The above information is general in nature. In order to obtain more specific and legal advice upon which to base your important decisions, please contact our office directly for a free phone or in person consultation.
Robert M. Gardner, Jr.
Hicks, Massey & Gardner, LLP
53 W. Candler St. Or 718 Oak St.
Winder, Ga. 30680 Gainesville, Georgia
(770) 307-4899 (770) 538-0555
serving metro Atlanta and all of Northeast Georgia
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