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If you have a claim against the estate of a deceased person—for example, for unpaid wages or breach of contract or other claim against the estate—you may be wondering what to do. The process for making a claim against an estate depends on whether the estate is being administered through probate or not. The case of Dunn v. Sublett gives us some insight into one aspect of this situation.

Legal Terminology


Consisting of three parts.

Claims for Money (Large or Small)

Debts that are pending (not yet matured), rather than debts dependent on a scenario which will never occur.

Probate Case

Dunn v. Sublett, 539 S.W.2d 351 (Tex. 1976)

Facts and Procedural History

Michael C. Dunn (Plaintiff), heir to John R. Dunn, deceased, brought forth a claim against the estate of Philip A. Sublett, deceased, which was subsequently rejected by F.B. Sublett (Defendant). Plaintiff’s claim against the estate focused on a tripartite contract between John R. Dunn, Philip Sublett, and Sam Houston. Under this contract, Sublett and Houston sold ownership of land specified within the contract to Dunn, and Dunn advanced a sum of money to them that was required to be reimbursed.

The Supreme Court held that, (1) since the rejection of the claim by the administrator was not based on the lack of authentication by the person providing the affidavit and (2) the statute did not specify who could provide the affidavit, the judgment dismissing the claim must be reversed and remanded.

The Court stated that the claim for money presented by Plaintiff was one that should be presented before the administrator, and that its allowance would simply ensure that the claim had the status that the administrator and chief justice would have given it through its approval (including the general and special liabilities on the estate as allowed by law). An affidavit must be provided with a claim, but the statute does not specify who must provide it, and as such is not conclusive or binding on the administrator. The administrator may reject a claim brought forth by a person lacking competent authority, a proper affidavit, and awareness of the facts, but must state that rationale. If the administrator generally rejects the claim, it will be presumed to be due to the merits of the claim and not for a lack of authentication (unless the claim fails to provide items required by law).

Main Considerations

Every claim for money against a testator or intestate needs to be presented to the administrator, regardless of whether the money is currently or not currently due. Debts owed to the United States maintain priority over other debts owed by a deceased person despite the timeline in which debts are required to be paid (whether presently or in the future).

The Takeaway

Where a claim against an estate is validated by a person who is neither the owner or the agent of the owner, an administrator that chooses to reject the claim must specifically state why prior to being sued for the establishment of such a claim.

Do You Need to Hire a Probate Attorney to Service an El Paso Estate?

If you have been named the executor of an estate in El Paso, you may be wondering if you need to hire a probate attorney. The answer is: it depends. The probate process can be complex, and if the estate is large or there are potential disputes among the heirs, or the payment of a claim, it may be wise to seek legal help. An experienced probate attorney can help you navigate the process, from filing the necessary paperwork to distributing the assets. If the estate is small and there are no disagreements among the heirs, you may be able to handle the probate process on your own. However, even in these cases, it is always a good idea to consult with an attorney to make sure you are taking the right steps.

If you are unsure whether or not you need to hire a probate attorney, please contact us for a free consultation at (915) 292-4400, or use the calendar to the right (—>). We can help you understand the process and decide if hiring an attorney is right for you.


Related Questions

How do I claim unclaimed property for a deceased relative after death?

In order to make a claim on an estate, you will need to provide the following information: the decedent’s full name, date of death, your relationship to the decedent, and your contact information. You will also need to provide a copy of the death certificate. If you are the executor of the estate or administrator of the estate, you will need to provide a copy of the will.

Who can claim unclaimed property of a deceased owner? A Creditor?

If you’re an heir or a beneficiary of a will, you may be eligible for unclaimed funds if the deceased person has died and it’s been two years since their death. You can claim these funds by filing a claim with the state where the deceased person has passed away. Be sure to check if the property is actually unclaimed before doing so. There are many different types of unclaimed property, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for. Common types of unclaimed property include bank accounts, stocks, bonds, and life insurance policies. If you think you may be entitled to any of this type of property of the estate, reach out to the state in which the deceased person resided and file a claim.

What happens when a claim is filed against an estate?

When a claim is filed against an estate, the executor of the estate is responsible for handling the claim. The executor will review the claim and determine if it is valid. If the claim is valid, the executor will pay the claim. If the claim is not valid, the executor will deny the claim.

What items are included in estate? Money Received?

Generally, an estate includes all real and personal property owned by an individual at the time of their death. However, there are certain types of property that may not be included in the estate, such as jointly owned property, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts.

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