Under the Florida Probate Code, a decedent’s estate subject to probate is responsible for paying any remaining creditors’ claims after that person’s death. If none of the decedent’s loved ones file in court to open the estate, can a creditor open the estate to receive the owed amount? Read on to find out.
Creditors’ Claims vs. Florida Probate – As Provided by Law
Florida Statutes §733.707 (1) expressly states that “the personal representative shall pay the expenses of the administration and obligations of the decedent’s estate in the following order:
- Class 1 – Costs, expenses of administration, and compensation of personal representatives and their attorneys’ fees and attorneys’ fees awarded under s. 733.106 (3)
- Class 2 – Reasonable funeral, interment, and grave marker expenses, whether paid by a guardian, the personal representative, or any other person, not to exceed the aggregate of $6,000
- Class 3 – Debts and taxes with preference under federal law, claims pursuant to ss. 409.9101 and 414.28, and claims in favor of the state for unpaid court costs, fees, or fines
- Class 4 – Reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses of the last 60 days of the last illness of the decedent, including compensation of persons attending the decedent
- Class 5 – Family allowance
- Class 6 – Arrearage from court-ordered child support
- Class 7 – Debts acquired after death by the continuation of the decedent’s business, in accordance with s. 733.612(22), but only to the extent of the assets of that business
- Class 8 – All other claims, including those founded on judgments or decrees rendered against the decedent during the decedent’s lifetime, and any excess over the sums allowed in paragraphs (b) and (d)”
Florida Statutes §733.707 (2) adds that “after paying any preceding class, if the estate is insufficient to pay all of the next succeeding class, the creditors of the latter class shall be paid ratably in proportion to their respective claims.”
Can a Creditor Open an Estate in Florida? – Taking a Closer Look
In most cases, the person responsible for opening a decedent’s estate in Florida is a surviving spouse, descendant, or one of the beneficiaries listed in the will. As provided by Florida Statutes §733.202, “any interested person may petition for administration.”
The term “interested person” is defined by Florida Statutes §731.201(23) as “any person who may reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of the particular proceeding involved.”
The same statute adds that “in any proceeding affecting the estate or the rights of a beneficiary in the estate, the personal representative of the estate shall be deemed to be an interested person.”
The meaning of the term “interested person” varies depending on the context. Even though creditors are not explicitly listed, they may “reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome” of the decedent’s estate administration.
Florida case law supports this precedent in cases like Arzuman v. Estate of Bin or Montgomery v. Cribb. If the other interested parties do not open an estate for probate, one of the decedent’s creditors can file in court to open the estate to collect an owed amount.