Right to sue again in the inheritance disputes solved by the court

Inheritance disputes are one of the common problems that often occur in civil cases. Compared to the 2005 Civil Code, the 2015 Civil Code has extended the statute of limitations for initiating a lawsuit on a division of inheritance being real estate, one of the important contents affecting the right to sue for inheritance division. However, this is the reason for determining the right to sue again the inheritance disputes which have been resolved in legally enforceable judgments or decisions of the Court.

According to Article 623.1 of the 2015 Civil Code, the statute of limitations for initiating a lawsuit on a division of inheritance for real estate is 30 years from the date of the person who bequeathed the assets died. It is longer than the statute of limitations for initiating lawsuits stipulated in Article 645 of the 2005 Civil Code, which is only 10 years.  

In reality, as we have observed, many cases of inheritance dispute had taken place before 1 January 2017 (the effective date of the 2015 Civil Code), having been resolved by in legally enforceable judgments or decisions of the Court, in which the Court decided to temporarily assign the heir to manage the real estate due to the expiry of the 10-year statute of limitations for requesting inheritance division under the 2005 Civil Code. However, if it is based on Article 623.1 of the 2015 Civil Code as mentioned above, the statutory limitations period for initiating a lawsuit on the division of inheritance is still effective. So in this case, does the petitioner has the right to sue for such inheritance dispute again?

Pursuant to Article 192.1.c of the 2015 Civil Procedure Code, if the petitioner requests a division of inheritance for inheritance dispute cases having been resolved by in legally enforceable judgments or decisions, the Court returns the petition and they do not have the right to sue again as mentioned in Article 192.3 of the 2015 Civil Procedure Code and Article 7.3.a of Resolution No. 04/2017/NQ-HDTP dated 5 May 2017 by the Judges Council of the Supreme People's Court of Vietnam.

However, if Article 623.1 of the 2015 Civil Code is applied, the statute of limitations for initiating a lawsuit on a division of inheritance is still effective. In addition, Article 192.1 of the 2015 Civil Procedure Code also does not stipulate that the Court is entitled to return the petition or suspend the settlement of the case on the grounds that "the statute of limitations for initiating lawsuits has expired". Therefore, we are of the opinion that if the Court does not allow the petitioner to sue again for inheritance division disputes that have been resolved by the Court as mentioned above, this will be rigid and does not guarantee their rights and benefits.

To solve this problem, DIMAC is of the opinion that we need to have specific legal documents recognizing the right to sue again by the petitioner to ensure compliance with the provisions of Article 623.1 in the 2015 Civil Code on the statute of limitations for initiating a lawsuit on a division of inheritance.

According to the latest information that DIMAC updates, the Supreme People's Court of Vietnam has issued Office Letter No. 263/ANDTC-PC dated 5 December 2018 ("Office Letter 263") guiding the People's Court of all levels on this issue, as follows:

“In legally enforceable judgments or decisions, the Court only decides to temporarily assign to the heir the right to manage the real estate and does not decide its division due to the statute of limitations for initiating a lawsuit has expired. However, if the statute of limitations for initiating a lawsuit on the division of inheritance is still effective pursuant to the 2015 Civil Code, it must be determined that this is a case where the Court has not yet resolved the inheritance division. Therefore, the Court does not apply the provisions in Article 192.1.c of the 2015 Civil Procedure Code and Article 7.3 of Resolution No. 04/2017/NQ-HDTP dated 5 May 2017 of the Judges Council of Supreme People's Court of Vietnam to determine that the petitioner does not have the right to sue again the case and return the petition. In this case, the petitioner has the right to sue again according to Article 688.1.d and Article 623.1 of the 2015 Civil Code and Article 192.3.d of the 2015 Civil Procedure Code”.  

Thus, the Supreme People's Court of Vietnam has recognized the right to sue again of the petitioner in the above case. DIMAC believes that the guidance in Office Letter 263 is reasonable and necessary, but this is only a guiding document, an internal guide in the Court system, having no legal validity and effective application as a legal document. We hope that in the coming time, the Supreme People's Court of Vietnam will concretize the guidance contents in Office Letter 263 in an official resolution to enhance the legal value, ensure uniformity in the handling and settlement of inheritance disputes.