The Personal Representative’s Duties to Known and Reasonably Ascertainable Creditors
Dealing with debts is no fun, whether the borrower for whose debts you are responsible is dead or alive. Contradictory rules about debt repayment and about the rights and obligations of borrowers and creditors can lead to confusion; just think about all the fine print at the bottom of the credit card statements you receive in the mail every month. For example, you have the right to tell creditors to stop contacting you about a debt; if you do this, they are legally obligated to stop, but you still owe the debt. If you have been researching laws about collecting debts from the estate of a deceased person, you may have found out that X is true except when Y is true, but in either case Z is true, and it isn’t easy to tell which rule to apply to which debt. In summary, it is possible for the personal representative of an estate to shorten the statute of limitations for some creditors, but not all, and there is sometimes room for debate about whether a certain creditor is eligible for the longer deadline. A Hillsborough County probate lawyer can help you resolve disputes with creditors during probate.
Notices to Creditors and How They Affect the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Claim
A known or reasonably ascertainable creditor is one about whom the decedent informed the personal representative or one that the personal representative can discover by perusing the decedent’s mail, checkbooks, and bank accounts. In other words, if you see that the decedent has been making automatic payments or writing checks to a company that is in the business of lending or selling, you can assume that the decedent still owed them money when the decedent died. Likewise, parties that send bills in the mail count as known and reasonably ascertainable creditors.
Creditors have the right to receive a written notice informing them that the estate is open for probate. For unknown creditors (those who do not fit the definition of known and reasonably ascertainable creditors), it is sufficient to publish a notice to creditors in the local newspaper, but known and reasonably ascertainable creditors have the right to have a notice sent directly to them, as the Florida Supreme Court established in Jones v. Golden. The notice should include the decedent’s name and date of death, as well as the contact information of the personal representative, the personal representative’s lawyer, and the probate court. Creditors who receive a notice have 30 days to file a claim or request an extension to do so. Known and reasonably ascertainable creditors have two years from the date the decedent died to file a claim with the estate.
Contact an Attorney for Help Today
A Tampa probate lawyer can help you identify the decedent’s creditors, serve them with the required notices, and respond to their claims for debts from the estate. Contact David Toback for help.