In 2010, the Virginia Supreme Court has published numerous opinions implicating the laws governing fiduciaries, wills, or trusts. Four of these decisions are particularly instructive about two continuing perils: standing and proper parties. Here is a little teaser: have you, as counsel of record, or has your lawyer, named the such-and-such “Estate” or the so-and-so “Trust” as the party—whether as plaintiff or defendant—in your case? If so, you should read on, as we will bring you a four-part series of posts to discuss these cases on standing and proper parties. Our first of four case discussions appears in the post below.
PART I: HAVE YOU SUED THE "ESTATE" LATELY?
In Idoux v. Helou, the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of claims filed against the “Estate of Raja Alexander Helou.” The court reiterated that under Virginia statutes and Virginia precedent the “Estate” could not be a proper party to the lawsuit. In Virginia, the proper party is the personal representative—in Helou, it would have been the executor. The problem for the plaintiff in Helou was that the lawsuit filed against the “Estate” amounted to a “legal nullity.” Accordingly, it did not toll, or halt, the running of the statute of limitation, which had expired. Therefore, the plaintiff could not amend his complaint to substitute the executor as the proper party.