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Is there a statue of limitations on Estates?

Elizabeth, NJ |

My grandfather passed away in 1990. I was a minor at the time (13) years old. My mother was executrix of the estate. I recently became aware that I was entitled to 3 thousand dollars and his piano. I never received either.

After a bitter falling out with my family, I learned through middlesex county surrogates office that my mother did this to her sister as well in 1994, my Aunt sued my mother and won. I found those papers when I went to the surrogates office to look at the will of my grandfather.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

My guess is your claim would be barred by the statute of limitations, but some statutes only apply to the time when you knew (or should have known) that you had a potential claim. I am not sure when that would be, in your case.

Who has the piano? Your mother?

There is also the potential problem of trying to collect any judgment that you win. If your mother does not have the money, you could win, only to not be able to recover. Depending on the nature of your estate, there *may* have been a surety bond. There is perhaps a chance that you might be able to collect on that. But there are WAY too many unknowns here to give you much constructive guidance. I would meet with a lawyer and see if there is anything you can do.

James Frederick

*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.

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Posted

From my understanding, My mother gave the piano away. Long story short- This all started when I came into money last year. My mother claimed I "Owed" her x amount of dollars, I gave her a check back in September of 2011 for 10k. I never really knew what I owed her for but she was my mother and didn't question it. In January of 2012 she wanted an additional 15k from me. I agreed to pay her a certain amount each month as long as she provided me with an itemized bill or some sort of copy for what I owed her. I continued to make good faith payments to my mother all the way until May of 2012. She never produced a bill so I discontinued my good faith payments. In August of 2012 I received a letter from union county Court house that she was suing me for the supposed remaining balance of $14,500. I went to my bank and viewed copies of all checks I have given to my mother since 2006, I can legally prove that I paid her over $37k for various bills, ect ect since then. It wasn't until then that a family member suggested I go to Middlesex County Surrogates office and look at my grandfathers will which is when I became aware of the money I was supposed to receive when I turned 17. I guess my hopes were that I could somehow use this as leverage for her to drop this suit against me, kind of like a cease and desist or I will move forward with claiming my money from my grandfathers estate. My parents own a home and they do have money so there is no issue there.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

On what basis is your mother claiming this money, though? It is important to have ALL the facts. If you do indeed owe her for some reason, then you may need to pay. Yes, I would think you would be entitled to an offset, but it sounds like you are still going to owe her a lot more, unless I am missing something. Why you owe her in the first place, I am not sure.

Asker

Posted

In the suit I received she claims she "Advanced" the defendant (me) $14,500.00. This is totally false, I am not sure even what I owe her the money for at this point, there is no contract, no itemized bill, there is no proof on her end that she gave me anything. her claim to me was that I owed her rent from years ago that I couldn't pay my parents when I was unemployed, money that I've used on her credit cards for gas (that she let me use), frivolous things, things your mother gives you money for when your younger and not established. There is no smoking gun here, my parents never gave me this kind of money. I have to answer this suit by 8/23 and have no idea where to start. i tried reasoning with her to no avail. As far as the offset, when i researched my grandfathers will, i saw papers attached to his will from my aunt. My mother did the same thing to her sister, she took her sisters money for her own use. My aunt sued and got the money back including interest. If i was able to offset 3k with interest from 1990, the offset might be much more in my favor. I realize you are trying to help without me paying you and I truly appreciate your responses thus far.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

I wish I could help you MORE, but I am not licensed in NJ. You appear to have two choices; 1) you can try to handle this yourself and see if it gets tossed out; or 2) you can hire an attorney to assist you. You will need to answer the complaint, either way. Without proof of the indebtedness, I do not think your mother had a good case. That being said, you are still in court, and if she has an attorney and you do not, you will be at a disadvantage. You might check with an attorney and see how much the charge would be to represent you. If you decide to answer the complaint yourself, I would respond to each paragraph in the complaint with either "Admitted," "Denied," or "Cannot admit nor deny," and the reason why you cannot answer. I would think the existence of your potential claim would be an "Affirmative Defense." You might as well claim it. It sounds like you have a better chance of proving the inheritance than your mother has of proving her debt. (If you decide to hire an attorney, there is a "find a lawyer" link below. There are many fine lawyers in NJ that actively participate on Avvo). You would look for a litigation attorney, or collection attorney in your city. Best of luck to you!

Posted

Statutes of limitations (generally 6 years or less) apply to most but not all claims. Exceptions can apply for such reasons as fraud or during a claimant's minority. Of course, no lawyer can advise whether you have a case w/o knowing a lot more details, but if only $3,000 and a piano are at issue, it may not be worth consulting a lawyer. You could bring a claim without a lawyer in Superior Court of New Jersey small claims court for Union County, which is right in Elizabeth, but the claim wouldn't succeed if barred by a statute of limitations. Maybe it would be worth paying an estates lawyer for a consultation to determine whether your claim may be barred by a statute of limitations,. Lawrence Friedman, Bridgewater, NJ. Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the ABA approved National Elder Law Foundation, former Chair NJ State Bar Association Elder and Disabilities Law Section, Member Board of Consultors of NJSBA Real Property, Trusts & Estates Law Section, Vice Chair Special Needs Law Section of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and Master of Laws (L.L.M.) in Taxation from N.Y.U. School of Law.

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Posted

Long story short- This all started when I came into money last year. My mother claimed I "Owed" her x amount of dollars, I gave her a check back in September of 2011 for 10k. I never really knew what I owed her for but she was my mother and didn't question it. In January of 2012 she wanted an additional 15k from me. I agreed to pay her a certain amount each month as long as she provided me with an itemized bill or some sort of copy for what I owed her. I continued to make good faith payments to my mother all the way until May of 2012. She never produced a bill so I discontinued my good faith payments. In August of 2012 I received a letter from union county Court house that she was suing me for the supposed remaining balance of $14,500. I went to my bank and viewed copies of all checks I have given to my mother since 2006, I can legally prove that I paid her over $37k for various bills, ect ect since then. It wasn't until then that a family member suggested I go to Middlesex County Surrogates office and look at my grandfathers will which is when I became aware of the money I was supposed to receive when I turned 17. I guess my hopes were that I could somehow use this as leverage for her to drop this suit against me, kind of like a cease and desist or I will move forward with claiming my money from my grandfathers estate. My parents own a home and they do have money so there is no issue there.

Asker

Posted

I never wanted it to go this far and since I recently became unemployed there is no way I can afford to pay my mother the 1k dollars a month she is demanding for on a bill that I have no idea what its even for.

Posted

The statute of limitations generally runs out the later of a period of time, or two years after you have attained the age of 18 years. In some instances, the courts will, upon a showing of good cause, extend the statute of limitations (SOL) to two years after discovery. You have not indicated when you became aware of this bequest.

As Larry has noted, the amount in issue belongs in the small claims division, where you can represent yourself, assuming you can convince the court it should grant an extension of the SOL.

The last think to consider, is whether or not: (a) your mother is alive, (b) if she has the money to pay your bequest, and (c) whether you wish to terminate your relationship with your mother. If she is not alive or does not have money, you are wasting your time and effort assuming the SOL hass not expired.

The foregoing is not intended to be legal advice upon which you may rely as I have not been retained for this purpose.

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