A personal representative of an estate, via letters testamentary or letters of administration, has the authority to handle a decedent’s estate. One of the personal representative’s responsibilities is to handle any legal claims against the estate. In certain circumstances, the personal representative can also make claims on behalf of an estate, such as a personal injury claim.
RSMo 472.010(3) defines claims to “include liabilities of the decedent which survive whether arising in contract, tort or otherwise, funeral expenses, the expense of a tombstone, and costs and expenses of administration.” Claims against an estate, then, can include many things, such as taxes, claims via judgment, secured creditor claims, and claims for services rendered while the decedent was alive. Specific notice requirements need to be made to creditors, and particularly to known creditors.
But in what circumstances can a personal representative sue on behalf of an estate for causes of action which the decedent would possess? Claims involving assault, battery, libel, slander and false imprisonment do not survive the decedent under RSMo 537.030. Wrongful death claims, though, do survive the decedent but can only be made by one of three classes of people. (1) The spouse/children of the decedent, and if not, then (2) the brother or sister of the decedent, and if not, then (3) a plaintiff ad litem appointed by the Court.
Therefore, pursuant to Missouri statute, a personal representative is not authorized to sue for wrongful death on behalf of the decedent, unless he or she fits into one of the three aforementioned statutory classifications. However, personal injury claims (which are in large part not statutory driven) can be made by the personal representative on behalf of a decedent.