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Dead Judgment Debtors
First, how many judgment debtors were named liable to pay your judgment? If not all your judgment debtors have died, you can probably try to recover your judgment from the (still living) judgment debtors. This article discusses situations where you want to try to recover something from a dead judgment debtor's estate.
Can you collect anything from your judgment debtor's estate after the judgment debtor dies? Their death does not automatically extinguish their estate's obligation to pay the debtor's judgment debts. Everything depends on the details.
When did your judgment debtor die? If they died before the judgment named them as a judgment debtor, that judgment is defective. If the final judgment was issued prior to the date of your judgment debtor's death, you have a chance of recovering some money.
Assuming your judgment debtor passed away recently, the first step is to contact the executor or personal representative of the judgment debtor's estate. You will need to make a valid and timely claim against the estate of your judgment debtor.
The estate of the judgment debtor, including their real estate, personal property, or trusts, are sometimes liable for satisfying the decedent's debts prior to any distributions to their heirs.
To have any real chance at recovering some money from your judgment debtor's estate, you must act quickly, and your judgment debtor must have possessed some available assets. If your judgment debtor was poor when they died, they will probably not be getting any richer after they die. If your judgment debtor and their relatives were poor, it is "game over". If the dead judgment debtor's remaining relatives are rich, send them your claim with a polite and sympathetic letter, and a copy of your judgment. Who knows, they might pay you something.
One reason to act quickly, is that the first creditors to submit their claims are more likely to get paid. Late creditors might get scraps, or nothing. The other reason to act quickly is that each state has their own statute of limitations on making claims on the estates of judgment debtors.
What if you do not live close enough to your judgment debtor, to know whether they died recently? Some ways to check for their possible death, is to scan the obituaries in the county or city where they live. Perhaps a web version of a "newspaper" might have obituary listings. There are many web sites to find this type of information including Ancestry.com and Searchbug.com. The more you know about your judgment debtor, the more useful these sites can be. If your judgment debtor is sick or old, perhaps check their status every month or two. Once in a while, a sneaky judgment debtor fakes their death (and public records) to thwart creditors.
Generally, judgment interest will continue to accrue, even after the death of your judgment debtor. However, often there is not enough assets in the judgment debtor's estate to fully repay all creditors. Be willing to settle, especially if that is the case. Judgment recovery is usually tough, and getting something for your judgment is always a big win.
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