To comply with the requirements for asserting a claim against an estate that arose before the decedent’s death, the personal representative must file his or her claim within four months of the publication of notice, the Court of Appeals reasoned in In re Schwein Estate, No. 324305
Decedent, David Lee Schwein, died on September 10, 2013. After his death, Sandy Mead filed a petition asking the court to appoint her personal representative of the estate. The probate court granted Mead’s request. Mead published a notice to creditors in the Lansing State Journal. Mead subsequently filed a claim against the estate for reimbursement of attendant services care she provided to decedent before his death. Several heirs of decedent’s estate objected to Mead’s claim, arguing that Mead failed to comply with the timing requirements for asserting a claim against the estate, that Mead had failed to overcome the presumption that her services were rendered gratuitously, and that her claim was barred by the six-year statute of limitations. The probate court disagreed, stating instead that Mead’s claim was timely because it was a “known creditor” claim rather than a claim of a personal representative, that Mead overcame the presumption of gratuity, and that six-year statute of limitations did not bar Mead’s claim. Decedent’s heirs appealed.
The Court of Appeals held that Mead failed to comply with the timing requirements for asserting a claim against the estate. The Court noted that pursuant to several provisions in the Estates and Protected Individuals Code, the personal representative of an estate must provide notice to creditors of the opportunity to present a claim against the estate, and the creditors must present a claim within the applicable time limits to prevent the claim from being barred. With respect to “known creditors” asserting claims that arose before the decedent’s death, if the personal representative provides appropriate notice, the creditor has four months to assert a claim; however, if the personal representative does not provide appropriate notice, the creditor has three years after the decedent’s death to assert a claim.
The Court concluded that it would be nonsensical to interpret these provisions in such a way that would include a personal representative within the definition of “known creditors” such that the personal representative must either mail or personally serve herself with a copy of the notice that she had already published, or allow the personal representative to benefit from not serving notice upon herself. Instead, the Court concluded that the claim of personal representatives should be treated as a “general creditor” claim, requiring the personal representative to assert his or her claims within four months of the notice’s publication. Because Mead did not assert her claim within four months of publishing the notice, her claim was barred. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded. In light of this conclusion, the Court did not address the remaining arguments that Mead had failed to overcome the presumption of gratuity and that her claim was barred by the six-year statute of limitations.