Q: Before my mom died, I took care of her. I spent about 10 hours per week providing caregiving services and coordinating medical visits and a schedule of visiting nurses. My mom repeatedly said that I would be compensated for my time. Now, my sister refuses to reimburse me for expenses incurred or to allow the estate to pay me for caregiving services I provided to our mother. What should I do?
A: Where you are seeking compensation for services rendered to a decedent, your request constitutes a creditor claim against the estate. For your claim to be valid, you are not required to file an appearance or a notice of a claim with the probate court. Rather, within six months of the original grant of administration, a creditor must present ("exhibit") a demand to the estate's administrator or his agent by registered mail, setting forth the nature and amount of the claim and making a demand for payment. RSA 556:2. After exhibition, if the debt remains unpaid, a creditor may file suit. But, suit cannot be filed within the first six months of the grant of administration and must be filed within one year of the grant of administration. The six month exhibition period is exclusive of the time such administration may have been suspended.
Procedural requirements relative to creditor claims are governed by strict adherence to Chapter 556, and even actual knowledge of the claim by the administrator is not a defense to a late filing. If a creditor fails to meet six-month demand or one-year suit deadlines, however, she may petition the court under RSA 556:28 for an extension. The court will only allow additional time for filing and prosecuting the claim if the court determines that justice and equity require it, and that the claimant is not chargeable with culpable neglect in not bringing her suit or claim within the time provided by law.
Consider also the application of New Hampshire's long-term non-claim statute, RSA 556:29, which imposes a two-year limitation period for creditors to reach a decedent's real estate or interests therein to satisfy claims against the estate. That is, if a probate administration is not opened within two years from the decedent's death, creditors are barred from filing a claim against the decedent's real estate or interests therein. In New Hampshire, creditors are allowed to petition to open a probate estate.
Published in the Union Leader (8/1/2021)
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