Ohio law provides creditors with a very short window of opportunity to present a claim against a deceased debtor. Section 2117.06(B) and (C) of the Ohio Revised Code provides that all creditors having claims against an estate shall present their claims within six months after the death of the decedent, whether or not the estate is released from administration or an executor or administrator is appointed during that six-month period. Failure to do so results in the claim being forever barred.

Recently, the Court of Appeals, Third Appellate District, held that if a person has a claim against an estate and no administrator has been appointed, it is incumbent upon the claimant to procure the appointment of an administrator within the statutory period of limitations for filing claims against the estate. In re Heider, 2010 Ohio 4820 (3d App. Dist., Oct. 4, 2010). Interestingly, in In re Heider, the claimant sent a letter to the debtors’ widow stating his claim against the estate, which the widow received within the six-month statute of limitations. The Court held that the letter failed as a valid presentment of the claim because the widow had not yet been appointed as the administrator of the estate. The creditor’s claim was barred because presentment of the claim had to be to the administrator, and the creditor failed to procure the appointment of an administrator within the statutory limitations period.

Let this serve as a cautionary tale to all of our creditor clients. As soon as you learn that the debtor is deceased, you should contact your LNL attorney for advice. If you have any questions regarding this issue, creditors’ rights, or probate law, contact Melissa Izenson.