The Illinois statute of limitations period governing legal malpractice cases is normally two years. The plaintiff has two years from the discovery of the injury to file suit. Illinois has another provision in the statute, which often protects lawyers involved in estate planning.
5/13-214.3(d) provides that: When the injury caused by the act or omission does not occur until the death of the person for whom the professional services were rendered, the action may be commenced within 2 years after the date of the person’s death unless letters of office are issued or the person’s will is admitted to probate within that 2 year period, in which case the action must be commenced within the time for filing claims against the estate or a petition contesting the validity of the will of the deceased person, whichever is later, as provided in the Probate Act of 1975. An action may not be commenced in any event more than 6 years after the date the professional services were performed.
For this reason, in inheritance disputes lawyers will often open an estate and start the claims period running. That leaves the aggrieved party six months to file any claims against the lawyers who drafted the estate plan. Dalessandro v. Quinn-Dalessandro, 2023 IL App (1st) 211119 is one such case. The adult children of the decedent filed a claim against their step-mother within the six month period, but they did not file against the lawyers who drafted the estate planning documents that disinherited them until after the six month period had expired. The provision in the statute is a trap for the unwary practitioner who incorrectly believes he has two years to file a malpractice lawsuit. Nope. He only has six months to file such a claim.