Statute of Limitations on Estate Claims

The statute of limitations is a law that limits the amount of time a person has to file a lawsuit against another person or entity. The statute of limitations on claims against a decedent’s estate, commonly referred to as the probate statute of limitations, varies from state to state. In the Texas, a statute of limitations for a probate proceeding sets the maximum period of time after an event within which a probate proceeding may be initiated. Statutes of limitations are enacted to establish a reasonable time frame for the commencement of a probate proceeding. If you are the executor of a loved one’s estate, you may have questions about the probate process. Here is some information about what to expect in your case.

What is a Statute of Limitations? What is the Probate Statute of Limitations? What is the Statute of Limitations for Probate in Texas? How long do creditors have to file a claim against and estate in Texas? This article explains when the statute of limitations for probate begins. We explain what a statute of limitations is and how it works, when the statute of limitations applies to probate, and whether there are any exceptions to the statute of limitations in probate.

Case: Estate of Erwin (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi December 29, 2021, no pet.)

Legal Terminology

Statute of Limitations:

  • Uniform Fraud Transfer Act, Statute of Limitations Period: within four years
  • Breach of Fiduciary Duties, Statute of Limitations Period: four years
  • Unjust Enrichment Case, Statute of Limitations Period: two years
  • Texas Theft Liability Act, Statute of Limitations Period: two years


  • Discovery Rule: requires an undiscoverable injury with evidence that can be objectively confirmed, postpones the statute of limitations.
  • Fraudulent Concealment: When a fiduciary relationship exists, the fiduciary is under a duty to fully disclose all material facts to the beneficiaries. Where fraud is discovered and confirmed, it stalls the statute of limitations until the fraud is/could have been reasonably discovered.

Probate Case: Fraud Statute of Limitations

Facts & Procedural History

C.E. Erwin (Decedent) passed away on October 17, 1993. Prior to his passing, he assigned his wife, Bettye, as independent administrator (personal representative) of his estate in his will. He listed both Bettye and his three children as beneficiaries. The will was admitted to probate, and Betty filed an inventory, appraisement, and list of creditor claims, which were subsequently accepted by order of the court.

Bettye passed away on August 29, 2016, and Redding (one of the children) was named independent administrator (personal representative) of Bettye’s estate (as instructed within her will). The trial court appointed Redding as the successor independent administrator of C.E.’s estate on September 27, 2017. Prior to Bettye’s passing, two of her children, Carolyn Sue and Clarence, passed away, leaving heirs of their own.

On July 1, 2018, Clarence’s son, Trey (Plaintiff), filed suit against Redding (Defendant) both individually and as the executor of Bettye’s and C.E.’s estates seeking relief that included: (1) an accounting of C.E.’s estate and the related testamentary trusts, (2) Redding’s removal as administrator, (3) damages for violation of the Texas Theft Liability Act violations, (4) damages for unjust enrichment, (5) damages for breaches of fiduciary duties by both Bettye and Redding, (6) punitive damages, and (7) attorney’s fees. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment due to the statute of limitations, which the trial court granted. 

Plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Appeals stated that, once the limitations period has ended and the affirmative defense is raised, a party may not recover on a creditor claim. The date of the cause of action (a legal injury caused by a wrongful act) is a question of law. The two doctrines that may delay or postpone the start of the limitations include (1) the discovery rule and (2) fraudulent concealment. The discovery rule applies to categorical injuries that are undiscoverable in nature and can be verified objectively, and when appropriately used, postpones the start of the limitations period until the injury was/could have been reasonably discovered. Fraudulent concealment requires specific facts that consequently stalls the limitations period until the fraud is/could have been discovered with due care. The elements include (a) that the defendant knew the plaintiff was mistreated, and (b) concealed that information to deceive the plaintiff. 

The Court expressed that a claim for breach of fiduciary duties (applying the discovery rule or fraudulent concealment) has a statute of limitations that begins when the alleged breach started. It said that Plaintiff’s claims regarding the mother’s accounting failures were barred by the statute of limitations, but that the claims for mismanagement had a fact issue and reversed the trial court’s judgment in favor of Defendant (on this claim). Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant for not engaging in claims against the mother’s estate executor had not expired under the limitations period and were able to be litigated. The Court reversed the trial court’s order that ensured Defendant (as the mother’s executor) didn’t have to create an accounting of the associated trusts. It declared that this was a part of his administrator duties, and he would be required to do so.

Main Considerations

Statute of limitations on will probate: Is there a statute of limitations on estate claim?

When does the plaintiff’s statute of limitations begin to run? When the will is admitted to probate? Or when the alleged breach of fiduciary duties starts?

The statute of limitations for a claim for breach of fiduciary duties begins when the alleged breach of duty starts. Holding that the limitations period for such claims begins when the will is admitted to probate would create unfair outcomes (such as trustee waiting a certain period of years and then begin engaging in fiduciary duty breaches in order to prevent the beneficiaries from suing). 

The Takeaway

Estate of Erwin shows when a claimant’s statute of limitations begins to run in a suit involving an alleged breach of fiduciary duties. An administrator of an estate cannot use a statute of limitations as an excuse to avoid rendering an accounting for an estate of a decedent to a claimant.

Do you need a lawyer to probate a will in Texas? How much do probate attorneys cost in San Antonio?

Hire an Experienced Probate Attorney in San Antonio. Do you need help with a probate matter in San Antonio-metro area or the surrounding communities? We are experienced probate lawyers who represent clients with sensitive probate matters. If so, please give us a call us at (210) 436-6601 or use the contact form on our homepage to see how we can help.

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Other Questions Asked Relating to San Antonio Probate Lawyers and Statutes of Limitations

How long do creditors have to file a claim against an estate in Florida with a decedent?

When a person dies, the probate statute of limitations is the time that creditors have to file a claim against the decedent’s estate. The statute of limitations to file a claim against a decedent’s estate in Florida is four years.

Is there a time limit to file probate in Ohio with a decedent?

Ohio has a 4 year statute of limitations for filing for probate if there is a will. If there is no will, there is no time limit.

Is there a time limit for commencing probate in Florida with a decedent?

If the decedent died with a will and the will was admitted to probate by a Florida court, the executor of the estate has four years from the date of death to file a final accounting and distribute the assets of the estate.

Is there a statute of limitations on probate in California?

A probate case is a legal proceeding to settle the estate of a person who has died. There is a time limit for filing a probate case, called the statute of limitations. If you do not file within the time limit, you may lose the right to administer the estate.

California probate code statute of limitations

California Probate Code section 21301 provides that a petition to open a probate estate must be filed within three years of the decedent’s death.

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