What Happens if this Case Settles after Client Passes Away?

Yee Law Group Inc. > What Happens if this Case Settles after Client Passes Away?

Lawyers, let’s say you represent a woman for a bodily injury claim in connection with a car accident.  The claim won’t resolve itself, so you file suit in a court of competent jurisdiction, serve the Defendant, and begin the discovery process.

At some point prior to trial, your client passes away due to unrelated causes.  However, her husband and three children come into your office subsequent to her death, and the five of you reach a settlement with the insurer.

Probate and Personal Injury Lawyer Little Rock, AR

How do you resolve the case and distribute the settlement proceeds?  The good news is that most jurisdictions won’t require you to substitute the party in the civil case, nor will the court require you to even ask for a stay of proceedings or leave of court to resolve probate issues.  However, you will need some expertise in probate matters in order to move forward.

Since the check cannot be made out to the decedent, you will need to initiate probate proceedings to have a special or personal representative appointed, and then you will have to have the settlement approved by both the civil court and the probate court.  If your client’s husband and all three children are in agreement with the settlement, prepare a Waiver of Notice and Consent to Settlement for each of them to sign and file of record in the probate matter.  If the decedent’s home is a probate asset, you will need full probate administration in most states.

Yes, you will need to prepare the family that this is a process, and that it will require some additional filing fees and hearings, and it may even require you bringing on a probate attorney if you don’t feel comfortable in the realm of decedent’s estates.  However, this will be the only way you can fully resolve this for your client’s family and close out the open civil case.  And, of course, if your client passes away prior to trial, nothing prevents you from having a personal representative appointed, substituting in the estate for the Plaintiff, and going to trial.

For these reasons, it is always smart to associate a veteran litigator and experienced trial lawyer who has been involved in these particular issues in personal injury and probate cases.  If you or a loved one has been injured or killed due to someone else’s negligence, contact a trusted attorney today.