Special Administration of Estates

RC Sections 2113.15 through 2113.17 provide that when there is a delay in granting Letters of Authority appoiting an estate fiduciary, or there is a delay in opening an estate, the Probate Court may appoint a special administrator for the decedent’s estate:

  1. To collect and preserve the effects of the decedent and grant such other authority as the Court considers appropriate; 
  2. To receive the debts of the decedent; and
  3. To complete such other duties as the Court authorizes and considers appropriate.

The special administrator’s duties shall end upon the appointment of the general estate fiduciary and the special administrator shall then transfer to the general fiduciary the assets in the possession or control of the special administrator and report the details of all claims that have been submitted.

The special administrator must file an account within 30 days of the appointment of the general administrator and shall be compensated from estate assets in such amount as the court determines appropriate.

When there is a delay in the appointment of the general fiduciary, creditors of the decedent should consider seeking the appointment of the special administrator sufficiently before the expiration of the 6 month’s post death claim filing deadline in order to allow time for the Court to process the application, give notice to those with a priority right to administer the estate (In re Estate of Tullos, 2012-Ohio-1114, 5th Dist.), and secure the appointment of the special administrator.

If the special administrator has received claims during the special administration Loc.R. 62.2 should be reviewed to determine the method of reporting those claims to the general estate fiduciary.

Items necessary to file a Special Administration

  1. Certified copy of the Decedent’s death certificate;
  2. Base court cost deposit is ninety dollars ($90.00); and
  3. Complete the Probate Forms listed to the right.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long do I Have to Present a Claim Against a Decedent’s Estate?

The answer depends on the type of claim and the “pot” of assets the creditor or injured party is seeking to provide the funds for payment.  The categories of claims are:

  • An unsecured claim ( e.g. a claim for money owed on an account, a note, because of an injury, for reimbursement of the funeral expenses) if payment is being requested from general estate assets must be presented for payment within 6 months of the date of the decedent’s death.  The 6 month timeline begins with death, not when the estate is opened or when an executor or administrator is appointed.
  • Secured claims (mortgage on real estate, lien on vehicle, pledge of securities) do not need to be presented for payment, to the extent that payment is only being sought from the asset providing the security.  However, if there is a possibility that the asset providing the security will not fully satisfy the debt, then the claim for the deficiency must be presented within the 6 month window following the death.
  • Clams only against the decedent’s liability insurance for injuries caused by another (tort claims, e.g. injuries from auto accident, assault, intentional acts) in which recovery is being sought only from the insurance are not bound by the 6 month timeline; however, if recovery beyond the insurance coverage is sought from the decedent’s general estate assets, then the claims must be submitted within the 6 month window.
  • Medicaid Recovery Claims may be submitted for a period ending on the later of one year after the decedent’s death or 90 days after the filing of the Medicaid Recovery reporting form (Form 7.0) with the Medicaid Recovery Administrator by the estate fiduciary.  This special claims filing window makes the state Medicaid program a supercreditor.

How do I Timely Present a Claim?

An Executor or Administrator having a claim against the estate, to which they are appointed, should disclose the existence of the claim on the initial application for appointment.  To preserve the claim, the executor/administrator must file with the Court a claim in the case within 3 months of the appointment.  If the claim is for more than $500, the Court will set the claim for an evidentiary hearing not less than 4 weeks, nor more than 6 weeks, after the filing.  The Court may appoint a special master commissioner to investigate the validity of the claim, or may appoint an attorney to represent the estate at the hearing.  The fiduciary must notify all those persons or entities inheriting from the estate at least 20 days prior to the hearing of the date time and location and purpose of the hearing.  The interested parties may, in writing, waive the notice and may consent to the approval of the claim.

All other creditors must present their claims in one of the following ways, after the opening of an estate and the appointment of the estate fiduciary (but before the filing of the final account):

  1. To the executor or administrator in writing;
  2. To the executor or administrator in writing, and to the probate court by filing with it a copy of the written claim that has been filed with the fiduciary, or
  3. By sending a written claim by ordinary mail addressed to the decedent if it is actually received by the fiduciary within 6 month of the date of death.

If the final account has already been filed and the distributions made,  then the claim may be presented in writing to the persons or entities who received distributions of assets from the estate from which the claim would have been paid if the assets had not been distributed.

Claims not timely presented are forever barred by Ohio law as to the estate and all parties, including the estate beneficiaries, unless the beneficiary is otherwise obligated on the debt (e.g., a co-debtor). 

Is There a Fee to File a Claim?

There is no fee charged by a fiduciary for a claim presented to the fiduciary.  There is a nominal charge of $10.00 charged by the probate court for filing and docketing the claim in the estate case file.  The court’s filing fee must be tendered with the filing or the filing will be rejected.

Does The Timely Filing of a Claim Assure Payment?

When appointed the general estate fiduciary may allow a particular claim, or reject it by giving written notice of the rejection to the claimant of all or part of the claim.  If rejected, the claimant has 2 months from the date the notice of rejection is received in which to commence suit on the claim by filing a lawsuit on the claim in a court having general jurisdiction to determine the validity of the claim.  “Commencement” means the filing of both the Complaint on the rejected claim and a request for service of summons on the estate fiduciary. This lawsuit is not within the jurisdiction of the probate court.

A claim that is otherwise valid, but not timely presented must be rejected by the general estate fiduciary because Ohio case law holds that there is no authority for the fiduciary to pay it.  The fiduciary may be held personally responsible for improperly paying untimely claims.

Does Allowance of a Claim Assure Payment?

The payment of allowed claims by the general estate fiduciary depends on the estate being solvent, and also upon the relative priority given the claims of the type that the claim represents.  It is therefore important that the written claim clearly indicate whether the claimant is alleging that the claim is one of the claims having a statutory priority for payment ahead of general unsecured.  The type priority claims in descending order of priority for payment are loosely described as:

Costs of administration, certain expenses of funeral and burial within certain dollar limits, the $40,000 family allowance for the spouse/minor children, debts given priority under federal laws (taxes), expenses of the decedent’s last illness, claims under the state Medicaid Recovery program, and state and local taxes, debts for manual labor and service performed for the decedent within 1 year prior to the death, not exceeding $300 per laborer.  Other claims are considered general claims and have the lowest priority, but are still ahead of distributions to the estate’s heirs.

These are only generally categories, and claimants are cautioned to review the actual statutory language governing the order and priority of claims and give consideration to the specific language applicable to each type of claim.

Claims are categorized by the general estate fiduciary when appointed, not by the special administrator. 

Do Heirs Inherit the Debts of a Decedent?

Debts of a decedent do not pass to the decedent’s heirs, except to the extent that the debts are secured by assets the heir inherits and the debt were not paid in the estate.  An heir may become responsible for the payment of debts of the decedent to the extent that a distribution has been made to the heir by the estate fiduciary and insufficient assets remain in the estate to pay the valid debt.  In that case, the heir is responsible for payment of the debt, but never for an amount greater than the amount of the distribution and never more than the amount that the distribution received has to the total of the distributions to all beneficiaries of the same class.

If Someone Advances Money to Pay a Creditor of the Decedent, Does That Give Them a Claim Against the Estate of the Decedent?

Only to the extent of the payment and to the extent that the claim has been or will be timely presented to the estate and is not barred by a rejection.  The person paying the claim should obtain an assignment of the claim from the creditor.

Can I Execute on Estate Assets on a Judgment that I Obtained After the Decedent’s Death or on a Lien Perfected Prior to the Death?

No executions (forcible collections, seizures, judgment liens) may be issued against an executor or administrator without approval of the probate court, and then only against the undistributed assets then in the estate.  Pre-death secured creditors may enforce their liens against the asset providing the security without filing a claim or obtaining court approval, unless the estate fiduciary has already commenced an action to sell the asset in the probate court.
    

Do I need an Attorney to Present a Claim?

The benefit of good legal advice can be critically important to a person intending to file a claim.  It is critical to assure timely presentation, proper documentation, and clear identification of the priority claimed.  While having an attorney assist in the filing of a claim can enhance the prospects for payment, a claimant is not required to have an attorney.  Ohio law prohibits the Court’s staff from providing legal advice.

Additional information