A personal representative (either an executor or an administrator) is in charge of identifying, protecting and distributing a deceased’s estate. That includes determining the deceased’s liabilities through court searches and publishing notices, and then reviewing the claims made by creditors.
When reviewing a claim, the representative has the option of accepting and paying the claim if they believe it is valid. They also can reject or dispute a claim. When that happens, the personal representative can give notice to the claimant under s. 66 of the Estate Administration Act (“EAA”). This notice starts a six month limitation period after which the claimant can no longer sue to enforce their claim. However, the six month limitation period does not apply where the claimant is a beneficiary and is claiming in their capacity as a beneficiary.
The power to give the six months notice is significant. Currently, the limitation period for contractual issues like a debt, is six years. The ability to shorten it significantly was done for public policy reasons to allow a the estate to be administered in a timely way.
The EAA will soon be replaced with the Wills, Estates and Succession Act (“WESA”). Section 66 under the EAA will continue under s. 146 of WESA.
Accordingly, if you are a claimant and receive the above notice, you must file your claim within the six month limitation period or lose your right to sue. If you are a personal representative and seek to dispute a claim, you should consider availing yourself to this provision to shorten the limitation period within claims can be brought.