The Statute of Limitations for Filing Claims Against the Estate of a Deceased Person
If you know that a relative has left you X percent of their estate in their will, you might start seeing dollar signs, but don’t get too excited yet. X percent of the wealth the person owns while they are alive does not equal X percent of what will be left by the time their estate settles. One of the major purposes of probate is to give creditors and unfairly disinherited relatives a chance to make claims from the estate. For example, the stepmother who is the black sheep of the family might get to claim a statutory share even if the decedent left his entire estate to the children of his first marriage. The court might even require the estate to sell real estate properties belonging to the estate in order to satisfy the decedent’s outstanding debts. If you are the personal representative of the estate of a person who left a lot of unfinished personal and financial business, an Orlando probate lawyer can help you.
Three Months Means Three Months: A Cautionary Tale
When an estate opens for probate the personal representative must publish a notice in local newspapers, announcing that the estate has opened and inviting creditors and other interested persons to make claims on the estate. People who wish to claim money from the estate must submit their requests to the court in writing no later than three calendar months from the date of publication of the notice. The law was amended in 2019 to clarify that the day when the clock starts running cannot be a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. Therefore, if the notice appeared in the newspaper on Saturday, January 16, 2021, the clock would start running on Tuesday the 19th, because Monday the 18th is Martin Luther King Day.
Nancy learned this lesson the hard way. She filed a claim against the estate of her brother Steve on April 5, 2018. Steve’s wife Katherine, the personal representative of the estate, published the notice on January 4. Nancy and Katherine brought their dispute before the probate court; they differed as to whether the clock started running on January 4 or January 5. The appeals court ruled in favor of Katherine, declaring that the claim was not filed timely, thus denying Nancy’s claim on her purported share of the estate. The following year, Florida lawmakers amended the wording of the law to prevent disputes like these.
The fact that a dispute about which of two consecutive days constitutes the correct deadline just goes to show that details matter in probate law. If there is any room for disagreement about the probate case in which you are involved, you should contact a probate lawyer as early as possible.
Let Us Help You Today
An Orlando probate lawyer can help you uphold your fiduciary duty if creditors or other interested persons submit claims you were not expecting during probate. Contact Gierach and Gierach, P.A. for a consultation.