When an Estate Is a Plaintiff in a Lawsuit

At a glance, the estate-administration process may seem straightforward. However, in practice, many unique issues may arise. One such example is where your loved one was a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit prior to his passing. Now, in addition to your other duties as the person responsible for implementing your loved one’s estate plan, you must also oversee the estate in its role as plaintiff in a lawsuit.

What Happens Next?

Although this particular complication may not be common, it does occur, and personal representatives must act quickly. Following is an overview:

  1. If your loved one died while a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit, the estate inherits the lawsuit. This means that the beneficiaries or heirs will receive the proceeds from any judgment at the end of trial.
  2. If your loved one passed away leaving a will, the executor, or personal representative, can continue on with the lawsuit after the death.
  3. If your loved one did not have a will at the time of his death, an administrator or personal representative of the estate must be appointed by the appropriate court in order to continue the lawsuit. For example, if your loved one passed away while living in Orange County, the Superior Court in Orange County would handle the appointment proceedings.
  4.  If the case settles before going to trial, the proceeds are divided according to the instructions in the will or the laws of intestacy in California.
  5. In order to prevent potential disputes, the personal representative should consult with all of the beneficiaries and heirs of the estate prior to agreeing to any settlement.
  6. Personal representatives may have to take quick action after a death in order to ensure that the civil case is not dismissed.

With potentially large sums of money at stake in a civil lawsuit, it is crucial that a personal representative act quickly and properly during the administration process to ensure those rights are protected. Fortunately, you do not have to go it alone. Connect with us today to learn how we can help.