Law School Case Brief
Raine v. Gleason (In re Estate of Gleason) - 631 So. 2d 321 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1994)
Fla. Stat. ch. 733.903 authorizes reopening estates if other property of the estate is discovered or if it becomes necessary that further administration of the estate be had for any cause.
In April 1986 claimant sued Jackie Gleason in New York alleging breach of an agreement regarding the television rights to The Honeymooners series. Gleason died a resident of Florida in June 1987 and Florida letters of administration were issued within 30 days. Claimant did not file a claim in decedent's estate. Claimant, however, continued to pursue his action in New York. Over three years after decedent's death, the probate court in Florida discharged the personal representative and closed the estate. About a year-and-a-half later, claimant filed a petition to reopen decedent's estate in Florida so he could pursue his claim in the ongoing litigation. The trial court dismissed the petition with prejudice, and claimant sought review. Claimant argued that since he was a known creditor, having been involved in litigation against the decedent at the time of death, the doctrine stipulated in Tulsa Professional Collection Services, Inc. v. Pope required actual notice that his claim against the estate had to be file within three months from the first publication of the notice of administration.
Should claimant be allowed to reopen decedent’s estate in Florida so he could pursue his claim in the ongoing litigation in New York?
The Florida appellate court affirmed the denial of claimant’s request to reopen the decedent’s estate because he had delayed any action to reopen the estate after it was closed for 14 months. According to the Court, even if claimant was not notified at the time notice of administration was published that he had three months in which to file a claim, Florida Probate Rule 5.495, effective January 1, 1989, provided for extension of the time in which to file a claim for a creditor who was known to the personal representative but was not served with a copy of the notice of administration. The Court averred that although rule 5.495 did not become effective until 1989, and Gleason died in 1987, the claimant could have availed himself of this rule by filing a claim against the estate after the rule went into effect.
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