Our firm successfully argued and prevailed in an important Third District Court of Appeals case that distinguished between a “known or reasonably ascertainable creditor” and a mere “conjectural creditor.” Soriano v. Estate of Manes.
Creditors can maintain a private cause of action against a probate estate that is protected by the the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause. A creditor must be given proper “notice” of a probate proceeding to pursue any potential claim they may have against an estate. But this entitlement to”notice” all depends on the type of creditor. If the creditor is a known or reasonably ascertainable creditor, then they are entitled to a direct notice of the probate proceeding and have time limitations on presenting claims. If not, a general publication in a local newspaper is all that is required under the probate rules.
The appellate argument centered around whether a potential creditor was “known or reasonably ascertainable ” or “conjectural.” The Court sided with our firms argument that the potential creditor was not “reasonable ascertainable” because the personal representative had no actual knowledge of the claim and and was therefore not entitled to a direct notice of the probate proceeding. The Court noted: “The affidavits presented to the trial court failed to establish that Ms. Soriano was a reasonably ascertainable creditor and further failed to establish that Ms. Manes, following a diligent search, should reasonably have ascertained that Ms. Soriano had a claim or a potential claim. The trial court properly denied Ms. Soriano’s petition because, as a mere conjectural creditor, she was not entitled to personal service of the notice to creditors, her petition was untimely, and her asserted claim was barred by section 733.702(1), Florida Statutes.”
Numerous legal blogs and articles have written about our case:
What’s a “reasonably ascertainable” probate creditor and why should you care?