Can I Sue Heirs of a Deceased Person?

If you have a valid legal claim against a deceased person, you may still be able to receive compensation by filing a lawsuit against the deceased person’s estate. However, you will typically need to direct your efforts at the estate rather than the individual heirs.

Under California Probate Code §9050 and §9051, the personal representative of an estate is required to give notice of the administration of the estate to the deceased’s creditors. This notice must be provided within four months of the date the court appoints the personal representative or 30 days from the date that the personal representative first learns of the creditor, whichever is later.

Once this notice is received, you must file a formal claim with the probate court and send a copy to the personal representative. Even if you never receive a notice, you can file a claim against a deceased person’s estate by checking the probate court records in the county where the deceased person lived.

If the estate’s personal representative rejects your claim, you can file a lawsuit in civil court against the deceased person’s estate. 

If you have questions, schedule a free consultation at today.

How Long Do You Have To Make a Claim Against a Deceased Estate?

California Probate Code §9100 requires creditors to file their claims against a deceased person’s estate within the later of four months after the appointment of a general personal representative or 60 days after the notice of administration is mailed or personally delivered to the creditor. 

After your claim is filed, the personal representative has 30 days to allow or reject the claim in whole or in part. If the claim or any part of it is rejected, you have 90 days to file a lawsuit from the date of the notice of rejection or from when the claim becomes due. When the personal representative or the court does not act on the claim within 30 days, you can choose to consider the claim to be rejected and proceed with a lawsuit.

Can an Executor Sue on Behalf of the Deceased?

Yes, an executor can sue on behalf of the estate. California Probate Code §9820 empowers an executor to commence and maintain legal actions and proceedings for the benefit of the estate.

Can a Beneficiary Sue on Behalf of an Estate?

Generally, no. As the personal representative is the only person legally authorized to act on the deceased person’s behalf, a beneficiary cannot sue on behalf of an estate unless they are also the estate’s personal representative. 

However, limited circumstances exist where a beneficiary can maintain a legal action for the estate’s benefit. For instance, California Probate Code §9654 allows the beneficiaries to maintain an action for possession of property or to quiet title to property against any person except the personal representative.

Can You Sue a Dead Person?

No, you legally cannot sue a dead person. However, you can file a lawsuit and/or creditor claim against their estate to request compensation from the deceased’s assets. 

When Should I Contact a Probate Litigation Attorney?

If you are owed money by someone who has died, you should contact a probate litigation attorney as soon as possible. There are strict time limits for filing creditor claims during the probate process, and if you fail to meet these deadlines, your claim may be barred. As a result, it is crucial to contact a probate litigation attorney as soon as you become aware of the death of a debtor.

An experienced probate litigation lawyer can help you navigate the court system and ensure that your claim is filed on time. Contact an attorney today to discuss your case and learn more about your legal options. By taking prompt action, you can maximize your chances of recovering the money you are owed.

Have questions? We’re happy to discuss.
Call (424) 320-9444 or email [email protected]

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About RMO Lawyers, LLP

RMO LLP provides personal and efficient inheritance dispute services to individual and institutional clients. The firm’s attorneys focus on probate litigation involving contested trust, estate, probate, and conservatorship matters. Serving California and Texas, with offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Orange County, San Diego, Fresno, the Bay Area, Dallas, and Houston. For more information, please visit

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About the Author

Scott Rahn, Founding Partner

Scott Rahn resolves contests, disputes and litigation related to trusts, estates and conservatorships, creating a welcome peace of mind for clients. He represents heirs, beneficiaries, trustees and executors. He utilizes his experience to develop and implement strategies that swiftly and efficiently address the financial issues, fiduciary duties and emotional complexities underlying trust contests, estates conflicts and probate litigation.

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