Can an Estate Be Sued?

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It is possible to sue an estate. This generally happens when the owner of an estate dies and thus individuals cannot directly sue the deceased owner. An ‘estate’ is a person’s assets. Credit companies as well as individuals who claim debt, personal injury compensation or compensation due to a breach of contract can sue an estate to recover damages or judgments. Estate litigation is a complex area of law and it is advisable for a person to seek the guidance of an attorney when suing an estate.

Statute of Limitation

The statute of limitation is the period within which an individual can file a claim or a lawsuit against an estate. This varies from state to state, and the claimant must inquire the exact statute of limitation from the local probate court. A claimant must file a lawsuit against the estate as soon as the publication of the death notice of the deceased is complete. The probate court will not consider any lawsuits and claims filed after the statute of limitation as valid.

Notice

The estate executor should send the claimant a notification of death to allow him to make a claim against the estate. However, a claimant can still file a claim and a subsequent lawsuit by finding out if a probate process exists and who the executor of the estate is. The claimant can do this by consulting the records in the probate court where the deceased lived. A regular bill or a Creditor's Claim is the appropriate document for an individual to use in commencing a claim against an estate.

Filing

For a lawsuit against an estate to be valid, the claimant must serve summons to the right person or entity. Claimants such as creditors do not sue before making a claim and only sue if the executor or beneficiary refuses to make good the claim. This means that the claimant serves the executor with a summons if a dispute exists over honoring the claim made by the claimant. In the absence of an estate, the court will establish an estate through the probate process and appoint an executor through whom the claimant can then sue the estate.

Litigation

After filing the lawsuit and serving the summons to the appropriate defendant’s representative, or executor, the litigation or court process becomes similar to that of a civil case. The court will review the arguments of the claimant as well as the defendant’s argument. If the claimant prevails, the court will grant that assets held in the estate will pay for the claimant's damage claims or judgments.

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