Most legal proceedings have deadlines: certain actions must be taken within specific time frames as provided by Texas law. Among the most common is the so-called statute of limitations. In this blog post, we discuss possible situations when this statute may, or may not, apply in a strictly technical sense. Interested parties are encouraged to reach out to one of our Dallas probate attorneys as every situation is different.
Posted: March 23,2016
Limitations and Breach of Fiduciary Duty
When we talk to clients about a potential lawsuit or claim they want to bring, one of the first questions we must determine deals with the “statute of limitations.”A “statute of limitations” is the law governing how long a plaintiff has before he or she can file a lawsuit to enforce a claim. This time period is called the “limitations period.”
A claim we frequently bring on behalf of heirs and beneficiaries of estates and trusts is called “breach of fiduciary duty.” This claim arises when an estate administrator, executor, or a trustee does not handle property according to law. It can even arise when someone has not been formally appointed by a court or in a trust document.
Generally, the limitations period for a claim for breach of fiduciary duty is four years. However, something called the “discovery rule” can affect when the limitations period starts. If the discovery rule applies, then the limitations period does not start until the fiduciary’s misconduct is discovered or should have been discovered. Often in breach of fiduciary duty cases, the fiduciary’s conduct is concealed from the beneficiary or buried deep within a bank account, and a beneficiary has no means to discovery the misconduct except through legal action.
The discovery rule does not apply to all cases. The bottom line for beneficiaries or heirs who suspect that an administrator, executor, or trustee is not acting in their best interest is to act quickly, not only before the fiduciary has more time to misapply property or hide bad acts, but also to ensure that the limitations period has not ended.
This blog post explored the issue of the statute of limitations and how that may, or may not, impact whether a dispute can be filed vis-à-vis an estate or trust. Consulting with an experienced attorney in the Dallas area is a good first step if you have any concerns about an estate or trust. The discovery rule is an issue that only a trained attorney will be able to understand in a practical way. Therefore, if you suspect any type of wrongdoing in an issue of inheritance, your most important first step is to reach out for a consultation. Our convenient Dallas office can be reached from the North Dallas suburbs, easily, or a consultation can be conducted over the phone.