Two Years For Creditor Claim in Florida Probate

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The Golden Rule: Reasonably Ascertainable Creditors Who Are Not Served With Notice Have Two Years From Decedent’s Death to File a Creditor Claim
Florida creditor claims can often be a trap for the unwary.  The statutory deadlines for filing a creditor claim in a Florida probate are strict, but interpretations of the statutory deadlines vary between the appellate districts of Florida.  In the recent case of Golden v. Jones (4th DCA 2016), the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal certified a conflict between the Florida appellate districts on the issue of when a reasonably ascertainable creditor of a Florida probate estate who was not served with a notice of creditors is required to file a claim in the estate.
In Golden, Edward Golden was the curator of the Florida estate of Katherine Jones.  Golden filed a claim in the estate of Harry Bruce Jones, Katherine’s late husband, for money owed pursuant to a marital settlement agreement.  As with any creditor claim case, the sequence of events is important:
  • February 2007:  Harry Jones dies
  • April 2007:  Harry Jones’ estate opened
  • June 2007: Notice to Creditors first published
  • January 2009: statement of claim filed in Harry’s estate on behalf of Katherine
  • 2010:  Katherine dies and Edward Golden is appointed curator of Katherine’s estate
The Florida probate court struck Katherine’s claim, ruling that the statement of claim was untimely under sections 733.702 and 733.710, Florida statutes, and established case law.
Section 733.702 (2006) states:
(1) If not barred by s. 733.710, no claim or demand against the decedent’s estate that arose before the death of the decedent…is binding on the estate, on the personal representative, or on any beneficiary unless filed in the probate proceeding on or before the later of the date that is 3 months after the time of the first publication of the notice to creditors or, as to any creditor required to be served with a copy of the notice to creditors, 30 days after the date of service on the creditor, even though the personal representative has recognized the claim or demand by paying a part of it or interest on it or otherwise…
***
(3)Any claim not timely filed as provided in this section is barred even though no   objection to the claim is filed unless the court extends the time in which the claim may be filed.  An extension may be granted only upon grounds of fraud, estoppels, or insufficient notice of the claims period…
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(6) Nothing in this section shall extend the limitations period set forth in s. 733.710.
(emphasis added).
Section 733.710 (2006) states:
(1)   Notwithstanding any other provision of the code, 2 years after the death of a person, neither the decedent’s estate, the personal representative, if any, nor the beneficiaries shall be liable for any claim or cause of action against the decedent, whether or not letters of administration have been issued, except as provided in this section.
 
(2)  This section shall not apply to a creditor who has filed a claim pursuant to s. 733.702 within 2 years after the person’s death, and whose claim has not been paid or otherwise disposed of pursuant to s. 733.705.
On appeal, Golden argued that Katherine was a reasonably ascertainable creditor, and that because notice to creditors was not served on Katherine, Katherine had two years from Harry’s death to file her statement of claim in the Florida probate, not 3 months after the first publication of notice to creditors.  The Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal agreed, holding that if Katherine was a reasonably ascertainable creditor, “then appellant’s claim ‘though filed after the 3-month period, should not have been stricken as untimely if filed prior to the earlier of 30 days after service of notice…or 2 years after the decedent’s death.’”
The Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal recognized that its ruling conflicts with rulings from the First and Second District Courts of Appeal in the cases of Lubee v. Adams, 77 So. 3d 882 (Fla. 2d DCA 2012) and Morgenthau v. Estate of Andzel, 26 So. 3d 628 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009).  In Lubee  and Morgenthau, the Florida appellate courts ruled that even a reasonably ascertainable creditor who was not served with a notice to creditors is required to file a claim in the Florida probate within the publication period of three months unless the creditor files a motion for an extension of time within the two-year repose period provided in section 733.710.  The lesson here is that the length of time a reasonably ascertainable creditor who is not served with a notice to creditors has to file a statement of claim varies depending on where the estate is located in Florida.  A statewide rule governing the issue is hopefully forthcoming from the Florida Supreme Court.

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