Christopher M. Brown, Esq.
It was reported recently that Bernie Madoff, infamous for his “Ponzi scheme”, died in prison.
In Season 7 Episode 10 of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld assemble the cast of Seinfeld for a reunion episode. The plot of the Seinfeld reunion episode presented George Costanza as having hit it big by inventing a phone app called the “iToilet”, which to paraphrase Costanza “finds you the nearest acceptable toilet anywhere in the world!”
Mr. Costanza allegedly made millions on the iToilet, but he invested most of it with Bernie Madoff and lost it all when Madoff went down.
If the Seinfeld plot was real life and in Pennsylvania instead of New York, could George Costanza recover from Bernie Madoff? Stated simply, can a claimant file suit against a dead person?
The answer to the latter is YES, you are not barred from seeking relief through the courts in a civil dispute because the offending party dies.
The decedent’s Estate is the appropriate party to sue, and their personal representative (the Executor or Administrator) is the individual to serve the complaint upon.
Additionally, when asserting rights as a creditor to an Estate in Pennsylvania, it is advisable to file a Notice of Claim with the office of the Register of Wills or Orphans’ Court in the county in which the estate was admitted to probate.
Assuming George Costanza had not previously made a claim and was within the statute of limitations (probably not, as the episode aired in November of 2009), his right to recover against the Estate of Bernie Madoff may not have gone down the toilet after all.