Your Estate Plan and the Statute of Limitations

May 12, 2014

There are a lot of legal concepts, such as the statute of limitations, that people who don’t have a background in law have heard about but don’t really understand. When it comes to estate planning, many of these legal issues and concepts don’t play a significant role. However, when people come to an estate planning lawyer, they often have questions about the statute of limitations and what it means for them. To help clarify some possible misperceptions about this important legal topic, let’s take a look at some commonly asked questions people have about the statute of limitations.

What is a statute of limitations?

A statute is a law, and the statute of limitations is a specific kind of law that imposes legal time limits. The kind of time limits we are talking about apply to specific types of legal actions. Specifically, the statute of limitations gives people a limited amount of time in which to file a lawsuit.

For example, let’s say you buy a product and suffer some injuries after the product malfunctions. The statute of limitations requires you to file your lawsuit within a specific amount of time. Depending on where you live and the kind of case involved, the amount of time you have can differ significantly.

Do I have a limited amount of time to create an estate plan?

Yes, but not because of the statute of limitations. In order to create an estate plan you have to be mentally competent adult. Because we don’t live forever, and because many of us will experience cognitive declines as we age, the amount of time you have to create your plan is limited. However, statutes of limitations do not apply to people who are creating an estate plan. As long as you are willing and able to create your plan, you can do so at any time.

Will I ever have to worry about the statute of limitations if I create an estate plan?

Possibly. If you are considering filing any type of lawsuit, or have been sued by someone else, the statute of limitations is an issue you and your attorney will need to consider. Filing a lawsuit is usually not something that people who visit an estate planning attorney need to do, though it is possible if you’re facing a particular type of pr0blem.

For example, if you are concerned that your grandfather created a last will and testament while being coerced by someone else, you might have to file a lawsuit. Any time you consider filing any kind of estate litigation, you absolutely must pay attention to the relevant statute of limitations, and will need to talk to your attorney about the issue.

Cheryl K. David, Estate Planning Attorney

Cheryl David is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Baltimore School of Law, and the prestigious Trial Lawyer’s College presided over by Gerry Spence. A former Administrative Judge, Cheryl is certified as an Estate Planning Law Specialist by the ABA accredited Estate Law Specialists Board, Inc. She is also a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Medicaid Practice Systems and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

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