Florida Probate Process: When to Serve a Creditor Rather than Publish a Notice
When undergoing probate in Florida, there are specific rules and procedures that must be followed. One of these involves how to notify potential and known creditors of the estate. Before the personal representative or executor can distribute the estate’s assets, all taxes and debts must be satisfied. But, how do creditors find out about the probate?
In general creditors have to abide by the two-year statute of limitations to file a claim against a decedent’s estate in Florida. However, when probate is opened, the personal representative can take action which will significantly shorten their window.
Notice to Creditors
During the probate process, the personal representative has to publish a Notice to Creditors as soon as possible. The notice must contain specific information, like:
- Decedent’s name
- Estate file number
- Designation and court address where probate is pending
- Personal representative’s name and address
- Name and address of personal representative’s attorney
- First publication date
The notice will say that the creditor has to file a claim against the estate with the probate court. The publication has to run at least once a week for two weeks in a row. It must be in a newspaper that is published in the county where the estate is being administered.
Publishing a notice gives potential and unknown creditors an opportunity to assert their claim against the estate in a timely manner. With a Notice to Creditors, they have up to 90 days to file a claim with the proper court.
The notice is valid for any creditor who may pop up as probate proceeds, there is no requirement to know the identity of all creditors in the Notice to Creditors that is published. But, what about situations when you do know specific creditors exist?
Serving Reasonably Ascertainable Creditors
If you know a creditor of the estate, you need to send formal notice. Florida Statutes 733.701 states that unless a creditor’s claim is barred by §733.710, every personal representative is required to serve the known creditors and publish a Notice to Creditor. Reasonably ascertainable creditors include ones the personal representative definitively knows exists and ones that can be deduced. This includes checking mail, e-mail, bank statements, or any other resources to determine what other potential outstanding debts the decedent had.
The benefit with serving reasonably ascertainable creditors is that it shortens the claim window from 90 days to 30 days. Absent either of these methods, the creditor has up to two years to pursue their claim, so it’s definitely beneficial to publish a notice and/or serve known creditors right away.
For decedents who were 55 years of age and older, the personal representative is required to also serve the notice to creditors on the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.
Retaining a Florida Probate Attorney
Preparing the Notice to Creditors and/or serving reasonably ascertainable creditors can be a complex process depending on the estate. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to retain a skilled Florida probate attorney. If you have questions on serving creditors or need to open probate, contact the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray at 561-571-8970 to schedule a consultation.