Alice Haseltine


A recent decision from the Supreme Court of Missouri, In re Austin, held that victims of substantiated child abuse are reasonably ascertainable creditors. The practical effect of Austin is to afford victims of substantiated child abuse an extra six months to file claims against the estate of his or her abuser. While this decision is a small victory for victims of sexual abuse, the facts in Austin raise controversial questions about whether the unique circumstances surrounding claims of childhood sexual abuse warrant an exception to the one-year claim bar against a decedent’s estate. This Note begins with an exploration of the unique factual circumstances that gave rise to the court’s determination that victims of child abuse are reasonably ascertainable creditors. The Note goes on to discuss the constitutionality of creditor claim bars and the evolution of the reasonably ascertainable creditor in Missouri. Next, this Note provides an analysis of the Supreme Court of Missouri’s reasoning in Austin and – finally – explores possible extensions of Austin while weighing the policy considerations associated with a broad extension of the court’s holding to future claims of child abuse against decedents’ estates.

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