Probate Code's One-Year Nonclaim Statute Protects Estates

In Utah, a creditor of an estate must present their claim within one year from the decedent's death or be forever barred. A court-appointed personal representative has the option, but not the obligation, to publish notice and give known creditors affirmative notice of the decedent's death and a shorter, three-month window to present claims. However, if no probate proceeding is commenced, the option for the three-month creditor window is not taken, and the one-year mark from the decedent's death is approaching, a creditor in Utah must file its own probate petition together with its claim.

Last year, the Utah Supreme Court clarified this statute in the case of Huitron v. Kaye, 517 P.3d 399 (2022), holding as follows:

[T]he Nonclaim Statute acts as a complete bar to claims against an estate that are not presented by the applicable deadline. This means that the presentment deadline is not waivable, and the one-year period cannot be tolled. And in an untimely suit against an estate for the sole purpose of collecting insurance proceeds, it means that the estate’s assets are not at risk as a matter of law. 517 P.3d at 404 (citations omitted).
This statute raises the possiblity that successors of a decedent may attempt to avoid payment of known claims by delaying administration until the one-year nonclaim period has run. However, the drafters of the Uniform Probate Code deemed this unlikely because:
[U]npaid creditors of a decedent are interested persons... qualified to force the opening of an estate for purposes of presenting and enforcing claims. Further, successors who delay opening an administration will suffer from lack of proof of title to estate assets and attendant inability to enjoy their inheritances. Finally, the odds that holders of important claims against the decedent will need help in learning of the death and proper place of administration is rather small.
Similar reasoning was used by the Colorado Supreme Court, interpreting another state's Uniform Probate Code nonclaim statute, in In the Matter of the Estate of Ongaro, 998 P.2d 1097 (2000). In that case, the court stated:
We are aware that the firm deadline for presenting claims... occasionally will work a hardship on claimants who do not receive actual notice of a decedent’s death. The General Assembly, however, has determined that the burden on those claimants is outweighed by the interest in the speedy and efficient settlement of estates.... A personal representative who decides not to provide known creditors with written notice of a decedent’s death and of the deadline for filing claims must forfeit the shorter nonclaim periods... in favor of the one-year period... 998 P.2d at 1104-1105.
In summary, the Uniform Probate Code balances the due process rights of creditors with the need for efficient administration of estates by including the one-year nonclaim statute. This limitations period cannot be tolled because "the personal representative is a trustee of the estate for the benefit of its creditors and heirs, and as such cannot by his conduct waive any provision of a statute affecting their substantial rights." Crowley v. Farmers Bank, 123 P.2d 407, 409 (1942). Anyone owed money or otherwise possessing a claim against an estate must make a formal claim against the estate in the manner prescribed by statute within one year of the decedent's death in order to protect their interests.