Definition: Creditor Claims

A creditor claim is a legal claim filed against an estate by a creditor to whom a decedent owed an obligation. A creditor who fails to bring a creditor claim within the time period specified by statute will lose the right to recover on the decedent’s obligation.

While a person is living, his/her creditors are bound by various statutes, called statutes of limitation, that limit the time period during which the creditors may file lawsuits against the person to recover on the past due obligations the person owes to them. The length of the period of time provided by the various statutes of limitation varies widely, with periods ranging from a number of days to a number of years.1

In a probate proceeding, the personal representative has the ability to reduce the time period during which creditors may file their claims to a window as short as 4 months — regardless of how much time is left under the otherwise applicable statute of limitation — which he/she may only do by strictly following the statutory procedure for providing notice to the decedent’s creditors.2

  1. For an example of some statutes of limitation applicable in Washington State, see Chapter 4.16 RCW .
  2. See Chapter 11.40 RCW .