On December 15, 2009 the Court of Appeals for Franklin County, Ohio issued a decision that serves as a reminder of how strictly the Ohio courts may apply Ohio’s six-month probate bar for tardy creditor claims. The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision that a health care center’s claim was time-barred, even though the health care center had, within six months of the patient’s death, sent a letter to the deceased patient’s family member who later was appointed (after the six-month claim period had expired) administrator of the deceased patient’s probate estate.

Six-Month Claims Period

The court’s decision serves as a reminder of the strict requirements in Ohio for "presentation" of creditor claims against a probate estate. In summary Ohio law requires that all creditors having claims against an estate must present their claims (according to methods provided by statute) after the appointment of an executor or administrator and within six months of the decedent’s death. The Ohio courts have applied the six-month bar even when an executor or administrator was not appointed within the six-month period.

Burden on Creditor

The creditor has the burden to make sure an executor or administrator is appointed by the probate court in time to receive the claim timely, even if the family or other related parties do not pursue the appointment of an executor or administrator within the six-month claim period. The court rejected the health care center’s argument that it could not present its claim to an administrator or executor within the six-month time period because no administrator was appointed until more than one year after the decedent’s death. The court responded that, in such circumstances, the claimant must take the initiative to ensure the appointment of an administrator against whom it can proceed or run the risk of being barred from making a claim against the estate.

No Relation Back

The fact that the individual who later was appointed administrator received the claim notification within the six-month claims period was not good enough. The court determined that the claim must be received by someone who is already the executor or administrator at the time of receipt.