Oftentimes people die owing money; this can be in the form of unpaid bills, loans, or other obligations. Florida law is very specific regarding the procedure for submitting creditor claims against a decedent’s estate. Under Florida Statute 733.2121, the Personal Representative of a Florida estate shall promptly make a diligent search to determine the names and addresses of creditors of the decedent who are reasonably ascertainable, even if the claims are unmatured, contingent, or unliquidated, and shall promptly serve a copy of the notice on those creditors. Florida law further establishes deadlines for filing claims by creditors, as well as the proper procedure for the Personal Representative to handle such claims.
Recently, the Second District Court of Appeal reviewed a case where a creditor filed his statement of claim in the probate case over ten months after notice to creditors was first published, but two years to the day after the decedent’s death. The creditor then later filed an independent civil action as a creditor in an effort to secure payment for services rendered to the decedent. This creditor was not served with a copy of the notice to creditors, despite his contention that he was a reasonably ascertainable creditor. The appellate court found that the creditor was required to file his claim in the estate proceeding within the three (3) month limitations period (pursuant to Florida Statute 733.702(1)) or move for an extension of time from the probate court (under 733.702(3)) within two-years of decedent’s death. As he failed to do either, the civil action was barred and the Court held that the fact the creditor was readily ascertainable was immaterial in the civil proceeding.
This case illustrates the importance of contacting a Florida probate attorney regarding your rights as a creditor of a decedent. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Adrian Philip Thomas can assist in filing a creditor claim in Florida probate proceedings and, if necessary and appropriate, filing a civil lawsuit in an effort to secure payment.