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Florida Court Rejects Daughter’s Claim Against Father’s Estate 18 Years After His Death


There are different rules in Florida when making a legal claim against an estate versus a still-living person. That is to say, if you believe a now-deceased individual owes you money, your legal remedy is to file a claim against their probate estate. And typically, you need to file such a claim within a certain time period specified by Florida law.

Ownership Dispute Was a Probate Matter

Sometimes there is confusion as to whether a claim is properly brought against an estate. A recent decision from the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, Ortiz v. Weiss, offers a cautionary example. This particular case involves a dispute over real property ownership.

The plaintiff in this case said that her father, who died in 1995, had purchased the property in question, taking title under the name of a Florida corporation, JAAC, Inc. The plaintiff alleged that she was a 25-percent shareholder in JAAC, although she could not produce any documentation of this purported interest. The defendants, the plaintiff’s mother and sister, argued in response to the lawsuit that the father and mother were the only shareholders. Furthermore, the parents owned their shares as tenants by the entireties, which meant the mother assumed sole ownership of JAAC upon her husband’s death.

More to the point, the defendants argued that the plaintiff’s claims were “barred as a matter of law,” because they should have been filed as claims against the father’s probate estate, which was closed in 2000.

The Florida courts agreed with the defendants’ position. The Third District, affirming a trial judge’s earlier ruling, noted the plaintiff “initiated her claims over 18 years after her Father’s death.” She further conceded those claims “were required to be prosecuted in the administration of her Father’s estate.” Indeed, she even named the estate as a co-defendant in her lawsuit. Given all this, this was clearly a case where the plaintiff waited too long to bring a claim against the estate, so her lawsuit had to be dismissed.

Speak with a Florida Estate Litigation Attorney Today

In Florida, a creditor must file a claim against an estate within 3 months after the personal representative publishes a “notice to creditors,” or 30 days after the estate personally serves the notice on the creditor, whichever is later. The estate is not legally obligated to recognize or pay any claim filed after the expiration of the relevant notice period.

Keep in mind, the personal representative can still reject an individual claim that is filed on time. But in such cases, the creditor has the right to challenge the estate’s rejection in probate court. In contrast, the court has no authority to hear a claim raised outside of the limitations period.

If you have additional questions or concerns about the probate process, a Fort Myers estate litigation attorney can help. Contact the Kuhn Law Firm, P.A., at 239-333-4529 today to schedule an initial consultation with an experienced probate lawyer who can review your situation and advise you of your options.


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