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Paying the Bills: Creditor Claims in Florida Probate Cases

Wed Jun 30, 2021 | Probate |

The probate process serves two main purposes: (1) the transfer of the estate assets to the beneficiaries; and (2) the orderly payment of claims held by creditors against the estates. For many, the transfer of assets often overshadows the payment of creditors’ claims even though creditors’ claims must be paid before the distribution of the remaining assets. As a result, the payment of creditors’ claims can have a significant impact on the value of the estate and often lead to disputes. If you are involved in a probate case and have questions concerning creditors’ claims, a Boca Raton probate litigation attorney can help you understand your options. 

Deadlines for Filing Claims

In order to be paid, creditors must file a claim with the probate court. One of the personal representative’s duties is to identify and notify all creditors that the decedent has died and the estate is being admitted to probate. The primary deadlines for creditors to file their claim are as follows: 

  1. Within 30 days from the date they received a written notice from the personal representative; 
  2. Within three months of the first date that notice was published in the newspaper.

If creditors fail to file their claim within these deadlines, their claim may be barred from payment by the estate. As a result, many disputes can arise over whether a creditor actually received notice. This is why it is always preferable to provide creditors with written notice rather than rely upon the notice published in the newspaper. Creditors who did not receive notice and were able to be reasonably identified by the personal representative have up to two years to file their claims. If you have received a claim from a creditor that you believe should be time-barred, a Boca Raton probate litigation attorney can help. 

Objecting to Creditors’ Claims

One of the personal representative’s responsibilities is to either pay or object to claims made against the estate. However, objections can be filed by any “interested party” – anyone who would be affected by the payment of the claim such as a beneficiary or other creditor. Here are some reasons why the personal representative or a beneficiary might object to a creditor’s claim: 

  • The claim was not filed within the appropriate deadline
  • The underlying debt has been paid
  • The claim includes amounts that the creditor is not entitled to such as late fees, interest, or other ancillary charges
  • The creditor miscalculated the amount they are due

Objections to creditors’ claims must be filed either within 30 days of the filing of the claim or within four months from the first published notice. If you object to the claim, the creditor then has two options: 

  1. They can file an independent action – a separate lawsuit that is filed in civil court; or 
  2. They can abandon the claim. If the creditor does not file an independent action within 30 days of your objection, the claim will be deemed abandoned and need not be paid by the estate. 

If you want to challenge a creditor’s claim, a Boca Raton probate litigation attorney can help you navigate the process. 

Talk to a Boca Raton Probate Litigation Attorney at Ellis Law Group

Creditors’ claims can complicate the probate process and often invite litigation. A Boca Raton probate litigation attorney from Ellis Law Group can ensure that these claims are handled appropriately. To schedule an appointment to discuss your case, call us today at 561-910-7500 or contact us online.