Probate & Trust Litigation

A resource for lawyers and the public in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for information on will contests, trust disputes, guardianships, conservatorships, elder exploitation, fiduciary duty claims, and other probate litigation disputes.

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Notice of Creditor Claim by Trustee Does Not Serve as Notice by Trust Beneficiary

In order to preserve the right to bring a creditor claim against a NH estate, a creditor must serve on the administrator a demand for payment within six months of the administrator’s appointment.  As I have previously discussed, the procedural requirements governing creditor claims are strict and even actual knowledge of the claim by the administrator is not be a defense to late filing.  Gray v. Gray, a case in which we represent the estate administrator, is the latest decision affirming these principles.

In Gray, the creditor in his capacity as trustee of a related trust served a timely demand for payment on the administrator.  His correspondence was clear and consistent that he was acting solely in his capacity as trustee and not as a beneficiary of the trust.  When he filed suit, however, he asserted the claim as both trustee and beneficiary, arguing, inter alia, that, by serving his creditor demand as trustee, he was acting as a representative of the beneficiaries’ interests and the administrator was, therefore, on notice of his beneficiary claim.  We did not dispute the adequacy of his creditor demand as trustee, but moved for summary judgment on his claim as beneficiary.  In a closely reasoned  order, the NH Federal District Court held that the creditor demand on its face and in the context of the surrounding correspondence exhibited a demand by the trustee alone and not the beneficiary.

Gray is an important reminder that the procedural requirements governing creditor claims against NH estates must be strictly followed. 

(Note: Ralph Holmes is currently retired from McLane Middleton. For information on this or other probate litigation issues, please contact Alexandra Cote at