How long does a creditor have to file a claim in probate court after someone has passed away?

Oftentimes clients ask the question: how long does it take for the estate to be completely administered?  Although this is a very common question, the answer is not always cut and dry. Every estate is different and depends on many factors. One of the factors that can affect the timeframe of administering an estate is how many, and what types of, creditor claims are filed in the estate. Once a creditor claim is filed, the personal representative must properly address the claim on behalf of the estate.

Florida Statute §733.701 states that every personal representative must publish and serve a notice to creditors. This notice will place any prospective creditor on notice that they have a specific time period to file a claim against the estate. If the creditor fails to file a claim within the time period, then it will be forever barred, meaning the creditor will no longer be allowed to secure any funds from the estate. Knowing this, the next question is, how long does a creditor have to file a claim? The answer, again, it depends, because the time frame can vary from estate to estate.

According to Florida Statute §733.702, the creditor must file its claim within 30 days of service of the notice to creditors or 3 months following the first publication of the notice to creditors, whichever is later. All “reasonably ascertainable” creditors must be served with a notice to creditors: if a personal representative knows about, or should be able to reasonably discover a creditor, then the personal representative must send it a notice. Regardless, any and all claims must be filed within 2 years of someone passing away. In Florida, there are various definitions of a “reasonably ascertainable” creditors.

Therefore, it is very important for all personal representatives and their probate attorneys to have a clear understanding of which creditors might be considered “reasonably ascertainable” for each estate in its jurisdiction. Conflicts surrounding the “reasonably ascertainable” creditors have gone as far as the Florida Supreme Court, where in October 2015, it ruled: “claims of known or reasonably ascertainable creditors of an estate who were not served with a copy of the notice to creditors are timely if filed within two years of the decedent’s death.” If these creditors are not properly served with a notice to creditors, then an estate may be dealing with creditor issues throughout the entire administration of an estate and even following the closing of an estate.

Consulting with an experienced probate attorney is vital for understanding the full complexities of an estate’s administration. If you are unsure about creditor claims or have any other questions concerning the administration of an estate, call Bedy Law for a FREE consultation at (727) 308-0529.

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