What are the Rules for Creditors in Florida Probate Matters?

After the death of a Florida resident, it is often necessary to open a probate estate. The probate
process “proves” the deceased person’s will, or if there was no will, then the probate process
ensures that Florida state law is followed with regard to distribution of assets.
But, probate is about more than simply distributing assets. If the deceased person owed money
to anyone, those creditors also have the right to bring claims against the estate. Valid debts
submitted within the required time periods must be paid before estate assets are distributed to
beneficiaries.
Types of Creditors’ Claims
When a probate estate is opened in Florida courts, the personal representative is required to
provide notice to creditors. This notice directs anyone to whom the deceased person owed
money to submit a claim for payment against the estate.
Creditors can include anyone the deceased person owed money to, including credit card
companies, banks or credit unions, individuals who made personal loans, contractors, health
care providers, utility companies, etc. This can include creditors the family knew about but may
also include unknown creditors.
Publication and Notice Requirement
The procedural steps and timeframes are important; personal representatives in Florida must
follow and understand these requirements.
Florida statutes require personal representatives to publish a notice to creditors in a local
newspaper. In addition, personal representatives must also affirmatively notify creditors that
are “reasonably ascertainable”, providing them with notice of the probate matter and the time
limits for filing claims. When a decedent is over the age of 55, the personal representative must
also provide notice to creditors to the Agency for Health Care Administration as part of the
“Medicaid Estate Recovery Act”.
Time Frames for Submitting Claims
The personal representative is not obligated to pay any debts until at least five months have
passed since the notice to creditors was published. However, all valid claims must be paid
within one year from the first date the notice was published. This time frame may be extended
by the courts in certain circumstances, as necessary.

Creditors have three months from the date the notice was first published, or 30 days after
being notified directly, to submit a claim. If a creditor doesn’t file their claim within this time
period, the personal representative may challenge the claim on the basis that it is time-barred.
However, this does not hold true if the personal representative knew about or should have
been able to reasonably ascertain that the creditor could have a claim against the decedent’s
estate.
In a 2015 case, Jones v. Golden, the Supreme Court of Florida held that creditors whose claims
are reasonably ascertainable but who were not served with a copy of the notice to creditors
have two years to submit their claims.
After two years have passed since the decedent’s death, creditors’ claims that have not been
brought are time barred, and the personal representative, beneficiaries, and estate are not
liable for such debts. Noted exceptions to this rule are mortgage loans and liens.
Objections to Creditors’ Claims
Personal representatives also have the right to object to claims filed, but they must object
within four months from the date the notice was first published or within 30 days from the time
a claim was filed or amended, whichever comes later. Objections must follow Florida Probate
Rules.
If a claimant wants to dispute an objection, they have 30 days to bring an independent legal
action.
Order of Creditor Payment
Florida statute 733.707 outlines the order of payment of expenses and obligations:
(1) The personal representative shall pay the expenses of the administration and obligations
of the decedent’s estate in the following order:
(a) Class 1.—Costs, expenses of administration, and compensation of personal
representatives and their attorneys fees and attorneys fees awarded under s. 733.106(3).
(b) Class 2.—Reasonable funeral, interment, and grave marker expenses, whether paid by a
guardian, the personal representative, or any other person, not to exceed the aggregate of
$6,000.
(c) Class 3.—Debts and taxes with preference under federal law, claims pursuant to
ss. 409.9101 and 414.28, and claims in favor of the state for unpaid court costs, fees, or fines.
(d) Class 4.—Reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses of the last 60 days of
the last illness of the decedent, including compensation of persons attending the decedent.
(e) Class 5.—Family allowance.
(f) Class 6.—Arrearage from court-ordered child support.

(g) Class 7.—Debts acquired after death by the continuation of the decedent’s business, in
accordance with s. 733.612(22), but only to the extent of the assets of that business.
(h) Class 8.—All other claims, including those founded on judgments or decrees rendered
against the decedent during the decedent’s lifetime, and any excess over the sums allowed in
paragraphs (b) and (d).
Work with a Skilled Probate Attorney
If you are the personal representative for someone’s estate, it is critical that required notices
and procedures be handled as required by law. Forefront Law helps clients with all aspects of
probate estate administration.
To learn more, contact us in Jacksonville today at 904-733-9080.

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