Source of the case: Cassation Decision No. 39/2014/DS-GDT dated October 9, 2014 of the Judge’s Council of the Supreme Court on the case “Dispute on inheritance” in Ho Chi Minh City between the plaintiffs: Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuong, Ms. Nguyen Thi Xuan against defendants: Mr. Nguyen Chi Trai (Cesar Trai Nguyen), Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Phuong and Ms. Nguyen Thi Bich Dao; with persons with related rights and obligations: Ms. Nguyen Thi Xe, Mr. Nguyen Chi Dat (Danforth Chi Nguyen), Nguyen Thuan Ly, Nguyen Thi Trinh, Nguyen Chi Duc, Nguyen Thi Thuy Loan, Pham Thi Lien, Pham Thi Vui, Tran Duc Thuan, Tran Thanh Khang.

Overview of the case: In this case, there was a party being entitled to a part of the estate and contributed to management and preservation of the estate, but objecting the division of the estate (that party thought the statute of limitations on an inheritance had run out), no request was made for considering her contribution in the management and preservation of the estate. In case of deciding this case, the Court considered the contribution of the heirs because the objection to division of the estate prevailed over the request for consideration of contribution.

The statute of limitations for initiating inheritance-related lawsuits. Under Article 645 of the Civil Code 2015 (“BLDS 2015”), the statute of limitations for an heir to request for the division of estate, to determinate his/her rights to the inheritance or denial of the inheritance rights of another person shall be ten years commencing from the time of the inheritance. In this case, Mr. Nguyen Van Hung passed away in 1978. The time of the inheritance was in 1978. The plaintiffs requested division of the estate in July 18, 2008. As a rule, according to Article 645 of the Civil Code 2005, the statute of limitations should have expired (in the opinion of Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Phuong). But in this case, the parties in dispute unanimously determined that Mr. Nguyen Chi Trai (first rank of inheritance) had resided in the United States of America before July 1, 1991. The First – instance Court and the Appeal Court also referred to Article 39 Clause 2 of Resolution No. 1037/2006/NQ-UBTVQH11 dated July 27, 2006 of the Standing Committee of National Assembly on House-related civil transactions established prior to July 1, 1991 and involving overseas Vietnamese: “The period from July 1, 1996, to the effective date of this Resolution shall not be counted into the statute of limitations for settlement of civil cases with respect to house civil transactions established prior to July 1, 1991, involving overseas Vietnamese.” . This Resolution took effect on September 1, 2006. So, until July 18, 2008 (date of the petition), the statute of limitations for initiating inheritance had not ended legally and the Court accepted the case.

Effort of preservation and protection by the estate administrators. In this case, Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Phuong was an estate administrator of Mr. Nguyen Van Hung’s and Ms. Le Thi Ngu’s estate. Ms. Phuong made no request for consideration of her contribution because she thought that the statute of limitation for division of the estate had already run out. Under Article 5 Clause 1 of Civil Procedure Code 2004 (amended in 2011): “The involved parties shall have the right to decide whether to initiate civil lawsuits, request competent courts to settle civil cases or matters. The courts shall only accept for settlement civil cases and/or matters when they receive lawsuit petitions and/or written requests from the involved parties and shall settle the cases and/or matters only within the scope of such lawsuit petitions or written requests”. If the involved parties do not make a request for his/her contribution, then the Court has no obligation to consider. But in this case, the Judges’ Council of the Supreme People’s Court decided that the request of Ms. Phuong to determine the rights prevailed over the request for consideration of her contribution. However, by not considering Ms. Phuong’s contribution, the first – instance and appeal courts failed to fully protect the claims of the parties.


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