Page 46 - Southington Magazine Issue 46 Autumn 2021
P. 46

Southington Magazine — Autumn 2021
Attorney Paul Bedard
Priority of Estate Claims
Within the Probate Process
After the initial grief and sense of loss following through the full probate process versus the small
someone’s passing, one of the first concerns for those left behind involves how to manage the decedent’s estate. The estate’s executor or administrator has a fiduciary duty to manage the estate’s assets while addressing any claims made against these assets.
The estate fiduciary owes duties to both beneficiaries and creditors. The fiduciary must exercise care, loyalty, and confidentiality while managing the estate — satisfying valid claims of creditors while protecting the interests of beneficiaries within the parameters of the estate’s resources.
However, beneficiaries are not entitled to estate proceeds until the enforceable claims of all creditors are paid. Connecticut law dictates the order of priority for these claims—making the claims satisfaction process a technical one for many estates.
The order that claims take priority in Connecticut is as follows:
1. Funeral expenses
2. Expenses of settling the estate
3. Claims due for the last sickness of the decedent 4. All lawful taxes and all claims due to the state
of Connecticut and the United States
5. All claims due any laborer or mechanic for personal wages for labor performed by such laborer or mechanic for the decedent within three months immediately before the decease
of such person
6. Other preferred claims
7. All other claims allowed in proportion to their
respective amounts
Probate assets are solely owned assets of
the decedent and do not include assets that would otherwise bypass probate via a beneficiary designation. Whether a decedent’s estate must go
estate procedure depends upon the value of assets within the estate.
If the estate has $40,000 or less in assets and contains no solely owned real estate, the small estate procedure can be utilized by filing an affidavit with the Probate Court indicating whether the decedent received aid or care from the state. The affidavit must also contain a list of the decedent’s solely owned assets along with a list of claims, expenses, and taxes due from the decedent’s estate and whether any of these items have been paid.
The Probate Court orders what claims should be paid and who should receive any remaining assets of the estate. The small estate procedure can be completed relatively quickly with very few steps involved.
When the full probate process is required, multiple filings are required over a period that typically spans six to nine months or longer. Creditors have 150 days from the date of appointment of the first fiduciary to file a claim against the estate. The fiduciary must determine the priority of each claim.
All creditors within each level of priority must be satisfied before creditors within the next level of priority can be paid. If the estate does not have sufficient assets to pay the creditors within that level, then the payments to the creditors within that group are prorated. If the estate does not have sufficient assets to pay all claims, the fiduciary must declare that the estate is insolvent. The estate’s beneficiaries cannot receive a distribution unless the enforceable claims of all creditors have been satisfied.
The fiduciary must give notice to each claimant of the rejection of all or any part of the claim, the allowance of the claim, or simply pay the claim. Any

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