In addition to Florida’s strict two-year rule discussed last week in Part 1 of this blog post, there may also be shorter time periods to bring a claim depending on the type of creditor and the nature of the claim. Whereas Section 733.710 is a jurisdictional statute of nonclaim, Section 733.702 is a statute of limitation that may bar claims not instituted in a timely manner. Section 733.702 has been described as “‘an absolute bar’ to untimely filed claims,” with only very limited grounds upon which to seek an extension to the time limitation, the two primary grounds for extension being fraud or estoppel. Morgenthau v. Estate of Andzel, 26 So.3d 628, 631 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009). In Mr. Robson’s case, the fact that he was almost certainly not an ascertainable creditor (especially given his repeated denials, under oath, that Jackson molested him) means that no personal service of creditor notice would be required, and notice by publication would be sufficient. For claims “against the decedent’s estate that arose before the death of the decedent,” potential claimants that are not ascertainable are given a three month window in which to bring the claim. § 733.702(1), Fla. Stat. In addition to Jackson’s estate publishing a notice of administration on December 22, 2009, there is a fairly high probability that Mr. Robson knew about Mr. Jackson’s demise and the administration of his estate; that is, of course, unless Mr. Robson was on an extended vacation in Amish Pennsylvania, or perhaps on a walkabout in the Australian Outback. Because time periods to bring a claim vary depending on a multitude of factors, you should contact a probate attorney as soon as possible upon learning of EITHER the death of an individual against whom you believe that you have a claim or the probate of that individual’s estate. While every individual’s best course of action will vary and he or she should have individualized legal advice, as a general rule of thumb, it is not advisable to sit by idly for nearly four years before bringing a claim, especially when you repeatedly denied during the life of the decedent the exact underlying facts upon which your claim is premised.
As Mr. Robson’s case against the Michael Jackson estate demonstrates, there are exceptions, albeit limited ones, to the time constraints that are statutorily imposed in most states. In Florida, for example, these exceptions include insufficient notice, fraud, and estoppel. While exceptions may exist, it is crucial to contact a qualified probate attorney as soon as possible, not only to assist in bringing the claim against the estate, but also to satisfy the procedural requirements that must be met first in order for a court to “extend the time in which the claim may be filed.” § 733.702(1). While the facts of Mr. Robson’s case may be sensational and are sure to play out in both the tabloids and a court of law, the underlying legal issues are common and should be addressed early and through counsel to avoid the difficulties faced by Mr. Robson.
Regardless of the underlying facts of your particular issue, if you think that you have a claim against an individual or his estate, you should contact a probate attorney as soon as possible. If you have recently learned of the death of an individual who owes you money or of the probate of that individual’s estate, the experienced legal team at Chepenik Trushin LLP can assist you in bringing that claim.