Nipomo, CA asked in Estate Planning for California

Q: Can niece sue for the missing inheritance after all these years? Grandmother was in charge of money.

My niece is 38 yrs old, parents died in accident at 15 months old. Money was left for her, but didn't know. Has a statute of limitations run out on her ability to get restitution? Thank you for any help you can give me so we can guide her in whether to pursue civil action.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Julie King
Julie King
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Monterey, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: The answer to your questions would depend on a number of facts that are not included in your question. For example, was the money was left in a trust and, if so, what did the trust document say the money had to be used for? If the money was left in a trust and the trust document said the money needed to be used for your niece's care, maintenance, education, etc., and the money was in fact used for those legitimate uses, then there may be nothing your niece can do.

There are different statutes of limitation for different legal claims so, depending on what your niece sues for (which legal claims she asserts), there will be different limitation periods, most of which have passed already, since it has been 30+ years. However, there is something called "tolling", which is a temporary suspension of the statute of limitations period. If your niece just recently learned about the fact she was left money, she MIGHT be able to argue the statute was tolled, so she still has time to sue. The tolling determination will depend on specific facts in your niece's situation. Have your niece contact a estate planning litigator (someone familiar with estate planning laws who handles lawsuits) and give that attorney more detailed information about how and when your niece learned of the money and. if applicable, bring a copy of the trust document stating how the money can be used. Best wishes!

Nina Whitehurst agrees with this answer

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