Tennessee Appeals Court Finds Exception to Claim Timely Filed in Estates Case

In a recent opinion, the Tennessee Court of Appeals addressed the issue of whether an exception to a claim against an estate was timely filed. In the case of In re Estate of Layton (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 30, 2015), the decedent was admitted to a nursing home for a brief period of time prior to her death, and she had an outstanding balance on her bill when she died. On the day before the one-year anniversary of the decedent’s death, the nursing home filed a petition for letters of administration for the decedent’s estate, as well as a claim against the estate for $14,400 for unpaid services. The trial court designated the nursing home as the administrator and directed the publication of a notice of the death in August 2014.

The decedent’s oldest daughter filed an exception, objecting to the nursing home’s claim, on October 17, 2014, within five months of the first notice to creditors. She pointed out several deficiencies in the nursing home’s claim. In particular, she noted the inconsistency between the amount claimed by the nursing home and the amount provided in the financial agreement signed upon the decedent’s admittance. According to the agreement, the decedent was charged a daily rate of $192 for a total of $4,608, not the $600 per day claimed by the nursing home. The trial court held that the exception was timely filed and subsequently reduced the amount of the nursing home’s claim. The nursing home appealed, arguing that the exception was not timely filed.

Pursuant to Tenn.Code Ann. § 30–2–314(a), an exception to a claim must be filed by a personal representative, creditor, heir, or any other interested party in the estate within 30 days after the four months from the date of the notice to creditors (i.e., five months). However, if the claim is filed after the four months from the date of the notice to creditors, the exception must be filed no later than 30 days from the date the personal representative receives notice from the clerk of the filing of the claim.

The Court of Appeals noted that the first notice to creditors was August 6, 2014, and the exception was filed on October 17, 2014, well within the five months specified in the statute. The nursing home, however, argued that the statute should be interpreted as providing no more than 30 days from the date the personal representative received notice from the clerk of the filing of the claim, as stated in the second sentence of the statute. The court disagreed, finding that the language did not support the nursing home’s position, since its claim was filed before the notice to creditors, and not after that date. As a result, the second sentence did not apply to the facts of the case. Accordingly, the appeals court affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

A knowledgeable trusts and estates lawyer can assist clients in the preparation and settlement of an estate, as well as identify any potential issues that may arise. At the Nashville firm of MHPS, our experienced attorneys provide legal guidance to individuals in a variety of matters, including probate litigation, family law disputes, and personal injury lawsuits. To discuss your estate planning needs with a legal professional, call (615) 800-7096 or contact us online.

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