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Question

If a deceased person who is a lease holder on a flat has debts to the landlord, can those debts be transferred to those who inherit the estate after the closing of probate?

Legally, is the inheriting party a new owner of the flat with a new relationship to the landlord, or is there a continuity of the relationship?

Context

In this scenario solicitors for the estate contacted the landlord, established and paid any known outstanding debts to the landlord and then probate was completed and the assets were distributed.

Later, new debts were "discovered" by the landlord and then applied retrospectively to the account of the party that inherited the flat. Do the party that inherited the flat owe the newly discovered debts.

Real-world context

I understand that asking about specific real world scenarios is off topic, so this section is arguably irrelevant, but in the real world scenario the origin of these debts is suspicious and so I don't feel like we are trying to wriggle out of debts legitimately owed; other owners of flats in the same building have no memory of this charge from the time, nor do the contractors who supposedly did the work. But all of that becomes irrelevant if the charges aren't payable even if legitimate.

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Creditors have a limited time to make a claim against the estate

Exactly how long depends on local law. If they are out of time, then they are not payable by the estate. If they are in time then they are payable by the estate or, if the executor distributed the assets too early, by the executor.

The lease is an ongoing contract

While it is quite common for local law (or the lease itself) to allow the landlord or the legal personal representative of the deceased to terminate the lease it is not automatic.

If it isn’t terminated then the estate can deal with it as the would any other asset/liability of the estate - sell it, transfer it or keep it. All the rights and obligations continue to accrue and if the debt has arisen legitimately under the contract then the current holder of the lease is responsible for it.

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