Closing an Estate

Though you hear the term consistently, there is no such thing as Closing an Estate. Probate instructions never tell you how to “Close the Estate,” because it never actually happens. The term refers to the distribution of the estate’s final assets, which typically means that the Executor has run out of things to do.

Why Do Estates Never Close?

The executor (or sometimes called a personal representative, or “PR”) is always the executor. For example, let’s say 30 years after the deceased’s death, the personal representative discovers a previously unknown bank account. The executor may have distributed all other assets 29 years before, but the executor still has the right to gather this new bank account. The executor still has this power because the estate never closed; it just ran out of things to do. The administrator’s power remains. But, the executor’s liability also remains.

The Executor’s Final Act, “Closing an Estate”

Because the executor is responsible forever, the executor should receive a release of liability before distributing any funds. Without a release, a beneficiary could years later bring a Surcharge Action. The personal representative, now – without any estate funds to pay his lawyer, must respond. Even if the charges are baseless, the executor may be stuck paying the legal bill. Instead, before making any distribution, the executor should insist on receiving a release. If beneficiaries refuse, the executor is free to file a Formal Accounting. If the judge approves the accounting, the executor is discharged.

With a release in hand, the executor can distribute the assets with confidence. With the distribution of all assets, the executor is said to have “closed the estate.” But, the executor still retains the power to gather newly discovered assets and address future complaints. The executor should not take the job lightly as the position caries with it a fiduciary duty.

Experienced, With Reasonable Prices, We Make Concluding the Probate Process Easier.

If you have any questions about Closing an Estate or the Probate process, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. At Vancouver Wills and Trusts we focus on estate law. With years of experience we will explain complex estate planning techniques clearly and concisely. We make it easy for you to understand estate planning so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.