One More Reason To Notice Those Pesky Creditors!
In Jones v. Golden, (No. SC13-2536), the Florida Supreme Court settled the circuit court split regarding when a reasonably ascertainable creditor is barred if the creditor was never served a Notice to Creditors.
Harry Jones’s estate was opened in 2007 and a Notice to Creditors was properly published. The Personal Representative (“PR”) never noticed Harry’s ex-wife, Katherine, nor her guardian. In 2009 Katherine’s guardian filed a claim against the estate for monies owed to Katherine from a marital settlement agreement. Katherine died in 2010 and Katherine’s estate (“Appellant”) continued the claim. In 2012, Appellant filed a Petition for Order Declaring Statement of Claim Timely Filed and/or for Enlargement of Time to File Statement of Claim alleging the guardianship was a known or reasonably ascertainable creditor of Harry’s estate.
The PR responded stating Katherine was not a reasonably ascertainable creditor and the claim was time-barred under Sections 733.702 and 733.710, Florida Statutes. The trial court agreed holding that the statement of claim was untimely. The Fourth District Court reversed and remanded the case to the probate court to determine if Appellant was “ascertainable.”
The Florida Supreme Court upheld the Fourth District Court holding. The Court held that a reasonably ascertainable creditor was not bound by the three month statutory period in Section 733.702(1), Florida Statutes, if the creditor was reasonably ascertainable and not served notice. The Court reasoned that a “reasonably ascertainable creditor need not rely publication for notice of the pending administration…Section 733.2121(3(3) requires a personal representative to “promptly serve a copy of the notice” on those creditors who are known or reasonable ascertainable after a diligent search.” Therefore, if an ascertainable creditor is never served, the applicable time frame never begins to run and it can file a timely claim within two years of a decedent’s death.
When in doubt, serve all potential creditors to reduce their time frame to file a claim against an estate.