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Can You Sue a Dead Person?

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

Can you sue a dead person? The answer is yes, via the dead person's estate. But whether or not you'll be able to recover any money may depend on how quickly you pursue your claim.

The ability to sue a dead person's estate typically arises under two scenarios: When the deceased has debts to be repaid, and when the deceased's negligence caused injury or death to another party.

Under either scenario, time is of the essence.

For example, state statute of limitations laws differ depending on the type of action you wish to pursue against a dead person's estate, such as wrongful death or personal injury.

State laws also dictate how much time creditors have to file a claim against a dead person's estate. A claim notifies the estate's executor or personal representative that you want a debt to be repaid. If you don't file a claim, you may not be able to file a lawsuit later.

Aside from timing, here are some other factors to consider in a lawsuit against a dead person's estate:

Does the executor know about your debt claim? If so, an executor or personal representative must notify you and advise you to make a claim by a certain deadline. A creditor who doesn't receive proper notice can try to use that as an excuse to file a late claim.

Are there surviving relatives? State laws generally provide that surviving relatives are not personally responsible for a dead person's debts. Even spousal obligations to pay for community debts may be limited by state laws. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits collectors from using abusive or deceptive tactics to pressure surviving relatives into paying a dead person's debts.

Estate laws are complicated, and the specific facts of your case will determine whether suing a dead person's estate is the best course of action. You can look up an estate or injury lawyer near you to discuss the details of your case.

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