A personal representative of an estate has a duty to make a reasonable search to determine the names and addresses of creditors. Creditors may include banks, electric companies, service providers, judgment creditors, or a past healthcare provider. A personal representative may wonder what type of “search” is required. Florida law requires that the search must be diligent to discover all “reasonably ascertainable creditors”. What does this mean in the real world? A personal representative should:
• Monitor the decedent’s mail and examine all bills that are received • Review the decedent’s checking account to find any regular check payments
• Ask friends and family members of any creditors the decedent might have • Obtain search judgments from a title company • Ask known health care providers about other health care providers • Review business records and inquire about accountants, lawyers, business partners or business employees who may know of creditors • Review old tax returns to see about sources of income and payments
For example, let’s say Jon Smith owns a family business in Miami and has a nephew living in West Palm Beach he is very close with. Before Jon dies he and his wife discuss with the nephew that Jon wants him to have shares in the family business when Jon is gone. Jon has no children and when he passes his wife Julie is the personal representative of his estate. Julie knows that the nephew has a claim to some shares in the family business, and she is required to serve him a notice of administration to fill his claim. If Julie fails to do this, then nephew may seek an extension of his time of file a claim. In this case the nephew is a known creditor and he is entitled to notice by mail or other means that provide actual notice. However, where creditors are not known or reasonably ascertainable, they do not have to be given actual notice by mail. In the case of unknown creditors, publication notice is sufficient.
If you or someone you know is a personal representative and need the assistance of an experienced attorney, please do not hesitate to contact Chepenik Trushin at (305) 981-8889 for an initial consultation.
Trawick, Trawick’s Redfearn Wills and Administration in Florida § 6:6 (2010-11 ed.)
Simpson v. Estate of Simpson, 922 So. 2d 1027 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 5th Dist. 2006)
In re Estate of Vickery, 564 So. 2d 555 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. 1990)
13Strulowitz v. Cadle Company, II, Inc., 839 So. 2d 876 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. 2003)