What Happens After Probate Closes
If you were a beneficiary or executor to an estate that recently went through or is currently going through probate, you may have some questions about what happens after probate ends. In many cases, people have a number of concerns involving the probate process including issues with how the estate was handled, what happens if new assets were found after closing the estate, or, if you are the executor, what happens after you have completed your duties.
While probate can differ depending what state you reside in, common questions that are applicable for each state include:
- Why has an estate not been closed yet
- Closing the estate as an executor
- What happens if the executor finds new assets after closure
- Objections to the handling of probate
Why Hasn’t an Estate Closed Yet
In most cases, a probate case takes about a year and a half to complete. However, in certain situations, the court may not be able to complete the probate case, thus, causing the case to stay open for a few years. Below are a few of the most common reasons why an estate has not been closed.
Common Reasons Why an Estate Does Not Close
- First, if an estate is in probate yet a beneficiary to the estate lives in a different country or state, the process may be delayed. Furthermore, a delay in probate may occur if an estate holds assets in multiple countries or states. The reason that delays can occur with the probate process if assets or beneficiaries are in multiple countries or states is that different tax laws or estate regulations will have to be taken into account before the court or executor can distribute the estate’s assets.
- Second, a decedent’s tax returns can lengthen the time that it takes to distribute assets and close an estate. An estate must pay all debts and taxes in full before distributing assets. Thus, depending on the situation, an estate may have to wait to distribute assets until the estate pays the most recent taxes.
- If an estate has multiple assets that are difficult to sell or appraise, it might take longer to move forward with probate. For example, an estate that has rare collectibles, patents, or the rights to some natural resource such as oil, minerals, or metals may find it difficult to sell or appraise these assets. Furthermore, if a decedent is the owner of a business that is not being taken over by a family member, it could take a while to find a buyer and complete the necessary paperwork.
Will Contests and Executor Issues
- Another issue that could delay the probate timeline is if someone contests the last will and testament or if the beneficiaries of the estate do not work together. If one of the beneficiaries contests the will, the court procedures to ensure that a will is valid and the newest version can take months. Additionally, if beneficiaries of the estate do not get along or work together, the executor of the estate may need to gain court approval for every step of the probate process.
- Fifth, if the executor of the estate is not capable or does not manage all of the responsibilities, the court will have to replace them. However, it could take months for the court to appoint a new executor, during which time, the probate process must stop.
While many estates that stay open past the normal period will likely end up closing eventually, the executor may not know how to close the estate or feel that it is not necessary to close the estate. If this occurs, the estate may stay open indefinitely.
Closing the Estate as an Executor
If you are the executor to an estate, it is important that once you complete all the necessary tasks, you follow the proper produces to ensure that you fully close an estate. If you improperly close an estate, you will still be responsible for the estate.
Under the Uniform Probate Code, Section 3-1003, the executor can petition the court to close the probate. However, the executor must first provide documentation. This documentation shows that all creditor claims have expired, and payments of the estate have all been made to the correct beneficiaries.
After the court approves the petition to close the estate, creditors and beneficiaries have one year to file a complaint. This complaint can include the estate, the executor, or both. One year is the statute of limitations for federal law. However, each state has its own timeline for how long a party can file a complaint against the executor.
What Happens if the Executor Finds New Assets After Closure
Even if the executor to an estate doublechecks for financial accounts missing accounts could appear. Additionally, if a financial account is not in the will, the executor or court may easily miss it. Furthermore, an asset may not even exist until after the death of the decedent. For example, if someone owes a debt to the decedent or finds a piece of physical property that was the decedents, they may give the executor a check or the physical item.
If this occurs, and the estate has been closed, you should contact the original probate court. In certain cases, the court may include a provision in the probate documents on this issue. This provision could state that the executor can distribute newly found assets without a court order. Furthermore, depending on how long its been since closing the estate, you may place the asset into a bank account. If someone gives you a physical asset, how you divide the asset will depend on your state laws. However, although you should still contact the probate court.
Objections to the Handling of Probate
One of the most common issues that occur after probate closes is that a beneficiary or creditor has an objection to how the executor handled the case. For example, a creditor or beneficiary may believe that the executor did not perform their duties properly. They could also claim that they did so in a fraudulent way. This could mean that the executor lied to the court about the amount of assets in the estate. Furthermore, the claim could concern the number of accounts, or if the executor took money from the estate without permission. Any party can bring these claims a year after the closing of the estate. However, you should file these complaints—when possible— while the estate is still open. Filing a complaint while the estate is open will allow the court to resolve the issue easier.
Because each state has specific laws and procedures tied to probate, finding correct and relevant information is difficult. By hiring a probate attorney, you are enlisting someone with knowledge of the state-specific laws. Furthermore, you will also have someone to help you deal with any legal issues that occur after probate. With over 20 years of experience helping clients throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia, Antonoplos & Associates group of probate attorneys is here to assist you with any issues that occur after the probate process.
Contact our DC Law Office for More Information
Finally, for more information on what happens after closing probate, contact us at 202-803-5676. You can also directly schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys. Additionally, for general information regarding probate law, check out our blog.