Statute of limitations based on claim type

Q. I need to sue someone in small claims court. I know there is a “statute of limitations” for how long you have to file suit. What is the time period for small claims court?

A. You are correct that there is a time period, called the statute of limitations, for how long you have to file a lawsuit. The limitations period, however, is based on the nature of the claim, not the court. For example, as a general rule, a lawsuit for a breach of contract must be filed with four years of the date you enter into the contract. A claim based on “tort,” such as an auto accident, must be filed within two years of when you are injured, and claims under our Deceptive Trade Practices Act must be filed within two years of when you discovered or should have discovered the deceptive act or practice. The rules regarding the statute of limitations can be complicated, however, so it is a good idea to file a lawsuit as quickly as possible.

Q. My father recently passed away. I was named executor in his will. My father lived in an apartment and owned very little. I discovered, however, that he did owe a lot of money to a few credit card companies. Now the credit card companies want to be paid. As executor, am I responsible for my father’s debts?

A. The executor is the person in charge of putting the terms of a will into effect. The primary role of the executor is gathering up the assets of the estate and distributing them to the creditors and beneficiaries of the deceased. In the event that the estate does not have sufficient assets to pay the deceased debts, the executor is not responsible. I suggest you contact the creditors and let them know your father has died and that there are no assets in his estate.

Q. I had a small fender-bender. It was clearly the other person’s fault. His insurance company has offered to settle but for much less than I think I am entitled to recover. Can I sue them in small claims court?

A. If you cannot work out a settlement with the insurance company, you can sue in small claims court. You do not, however, sue the insurance company. You should file your claim against the person who caused the accident, and they then bring the insurance company into the lawsuit.

Q. I have one of my daughters named as the beneficiary of a CD. I just prepared a will dividing all of my property between my two daughters. Does my will apply to the CD?

A. Your will does not affect beneficiaries name in other accounts, such as a CD or 401k. If you want your daughters to divide the proceeds of the CD, you need to change the beneficiary designation.