The probate process is designed not only to transfer property to heirs, but also to address the last debts and expenses of the decedent. How long does a creditor have to bring a claim against a probate estate? Section 473.360 provides the time limitations for bringing a claim against an estate, stating in pertinent part that:
all claims against the estate of a deceased person […] which are not filed in the probate division of the circuit court within six months after the date of the first published notice of letters testamentary or of administration or, if notice was actually mailed to, or served upon, such creditor, within two months after the date such notice was mailed, or served, whichever later occurs, or which are not paid by the personal representative, within six months after the first published notice of letters testamentary or of administration, are forever barred against the estate, the personal representative, the heirs, devisees and legatees of the decedent
Creditors making a claim are entitled to due process protection. Certain creditors are entitled to actual notice as a “minimum constitutional precondition to a proceeding which will adversely affect [their] property interests […] if its name and address are reasonably ascertainable. Mennonite Bd. of Missions v. Adams, 462 U.S. 791, 800 (1983). Causes of action and claims are included in the property interests protected by due process. Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co.,, 455 U.W. 422, 428 (1982). Failure to provide a known or readily ascertainable claimant with actual notice of a proceeding that terminates the claimant’s claim results in a violation of due process. In re Bohannon, 943 S.W.2d 651, 654 (Mo. 1997).
What does this all mean in the probate context in Missouri? Although a personal representative administering an estate is not required to take extraordinary steps to locate creditors of the estate, the personal representative must make reasonably diligent efforts to identify creditors. Tulsa Prof’l Collection Servs., Inc. v. Pope, 485 U.W. 489, 490 (1988). Therefore, the creditor’s identity must be known or reasonably ascertainable to be entitled to actual notice; all other creditors typically must monitor the general probate notices.
Contact us with questions pertaining to probate, creditor claims, or estate administration.