Can heirs of a settled estate be sued regarding personal injuries for which the deceased was liable?

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Can heirs of a settled estate be sued regarding personal injuries for which the deceased was liable?

My soon-to-be wife’s parents died in a plane crash in NV. Their 2passengers survived. This where things get tricky. My wife’s dad was her real dad. The mom was her stepmom with no blood relation. The dad died first leaving everything to the mother. Then 2 weeks later the mother died, leaving everything to my wife and her stepsister. The estate has been settled. Can the survivors come back and sue my wife?

Asked on July 27, 2011 Louisiana

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for the loss of your in-laws.  I need to make certain assumptions here.  First, that the estates of both your father-in-law and your mother-in-law were properly probated through the probate courts.  This means the the personal representative did what they were supposed to do regarding notice, etc., of the probate.  I can not say for sure about Louisiana law, as your law is governed mostly by the Napoleonic Code and that is VERY different, but generally speaking, once a person dies the requirements for filing a lawsuit against the differ greatly than if they were still alive.  When a party is alive the time frame is governed by the state's statute of limitations on the injury.  But when they die, that statute becomes secondary to the estate.  In other words,  depending on when an estate is opened and the executor’s performance of certain requirements under the probate code, an injured party's time to file a claim can be decreased considerably  - sometimes to only a few months - within which to file suit against the deceased defendant.   That time period can be even shorter if a potential claimant is given notice of his or her opportunity to file the claim by the estate’s personal representative.  If the proper steps were filed by the estate's personal representative for notification and the estate was properly distributed then the beneficiaries should be without worry.  Please seek confirmation of this from an attorney in your area.  Good luck.


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