In re Estate of Conard, 272 S.W.3d 313 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008)

Factual Background:

Earl Conard died intestate on April 7, 2006, and pursuant to the Missouri Probate Code, notice that Letters of Administration were issued was published on May 3, 2006.  As a result, and pursuant to RSMo. §473.360.1, claimants had until November 3, 2006 to file claims against the Estate.  On July 14, 2006, William, Linda and Jay Engel (“the Engels”) filed three hand written pro se claims against the estate.  The first claim, was a claim for $7,337.50 for Earl Conard’s funeral expenses.  The second claim was for $89,136.00 for costs incurred in managing and servicing the Earl Conard’s cow heard.  The third claim was for $1,993.88 for services provided in “getting Earl Conard’s cattle to sale.”  However, none of the claims were signed by any of the parties.  On January 29, 2007 counsel for the personal representatives of the estate noted for the record and had the court take judicial notice of the fact that the Engels claims failed to comply with RSMo. §472.080.1 in that they did not contain a statement that the claim was made under oath or affirmation and that its representations were true and correct to the best knowledge and belief of the person signing it under penalty of perjury.  As a result, the Circuit Court of Worth County, Fischer, J., dismissed the claims.  On January 31 and February 20 of 2007 respectively, the Engles then filed First and Second Amended Claims against the Estate which were properly signed.  The Circuit Court dismissed both Amended Claims with prejudice, citing the failure to properly sign the original claims as the sole basis for the dismissal.

On Appeal:

Where a filing party fails to properly sign its claims against an estate, such an omission is not fatal unless the filing party has failed to promptly correct the omission after it is called to their attention.


While RSMo. §472.080.1 explicitly states that any claim against an estate must be “signed by the claimant” it does not specify a sanction for a claimant’s failure to file a properly signed claim prior to the claims bar date.  The Missouri Supreme Court Rules of Civil Procedure 55.03(a) (which explicitly applies to probate proceedings by operation of Rule 41.01(b)) provides that: “an unsigned filing…shall be stricken unless the omission is corrected promptly after being called to the attention of the attorney or party filing the same.”  As a result, the Engels failure to sign their claims was not per se fatal—the lack of a signature would only provided a basis for dismissal if the Engels failed to promptly correct the omission after being notified.  Here, the Engels were not notified of their failure to sign their claims until they were dismissed on January 29, 2007.  Two days later, the Engels filed an Amended Claim which was properly signed and notarized as required by RSMo. §472.080.1.  It is without question that the filing of this Amended complaint acted as a “prompt correction” to the omissions in their original claims against the estate.  As such, the Amended Complaints properly relate back to the initial claims and therefore were timely filed.  The trial court’s dismissal of the Amended Claims was improper—reversed and remanded.