If you think you have been wrongly disinherited from an estate, please do me a favor and act quickly. I cannot tell you how many people I have talked to who have great claims, or rather HAD great claims, only to find out that they waited too long to bring a lawsuit to enforce their rights in Court. The statute of limitations (that pesky set of laws that sets time limits to bringing lawsuits) can have harsh results.
The problem in Trust and Will matters if that there are a number of different (often conflicting) statutes of limitations at play. For example, let’s say you have an agreement with a decedent to leave you property in a Will, but the Will was never created. That is a contract right, but it must be brought within a year of the decedent’s death. If you were disinherited from a Trust, you may have a very long time before you have to bring a lawsuit, UNLESS you are served with Trustee’s notice, in which case your statute of limitations is limited to 120 days.
Have a problem with a Trustee? You might have an unlimited amount of time to bring a claim, or you might have three years, it all depends on whether you were provided enough information to know (or where you should have known) you had a claim against the Trustee. On the other hand, if a Trustee files for Court approval of a Trust accounting, and you do not object to the accounting, then you are forever barred from contesting the Trustee’s actions as reported in the accounting.
Not only does the statute of limitations bar your claim, there’s also the equitable doctrines of Laches, which is a legal doctrine that allows a court to stop a lawsuit where a party waited too long to file it. Laches is based on fairness and where a party waits beyond what is a “reasonable” amount of time, then the lawsuit can be thrown out.
Confused yet? You should be, it is a very confusing area to deal with.
The bottom line: act swiftly. If you think you have been given a raw deal, then take action now. My favorite potential client call of all time: “Hi, my mom died in 1975 and I want to contest the distribution of her estate”…What!!?? 1975 was a while ago, why wait so long?
If you do not take action, then be forewarned, you may be giving up your rights whether you like it or not.
Ontario, California 91764