If there are no assets, then no probate is necessary. But you may want to take legal action to handle the outstanding estate bills. This can be done in a probate proceeding, or by using a process to settle creditor claims for estates passing without probate.
If there are absolutely no assets, then you could simply do nothing, and ignore the calls and correspondence from creditors. The bills left behind by your mother will remain her obligation, and do not become the obligation of the heirs or beneficiaries of the estate.
But any assets of your mother may remain liable for those bills, even if the assets passed to heirs or beneficiaries without probate. If there were assets, creditors could seek payment out of those assets. If nothing is done, the creditors will have until the statute of limitations runs out on their claims to collect against those assets. In some cases, the statute of limitations could be as long as 6 years.
By going through probate, or using the process to settle creditor claims for estates passing without probate, in most situations you can reduce the statute of limitations on these claims to as little as 4 months. This process is set out in statute and is somewhat involved, but can be easily accomplished with the help of an attorney. The peace of mind to heirs and beneficiaries of knowing that creditors won’t come looking for payment out of assets they inherited, may be worth the time and money spent doing a probate, or settling the creditor claims.
Douglas N. Kiger, Attorney at Law
Blado Kiger Bolan, Tacoma, Wash.