From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: I am the executor of my mother’s estate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have sold the real estate, liquidated all the assets, and am ready to distribute, but my sister will not give me a release of liability. What can I do?
You are right to be concerned.
Prior to making distributions from the estate, you should insist on getting a release of liability. This is typically done informally by using what is broadly referred to as a Family Settlement Agreement. Typically the probate attorney assembles a Settlement Agreement. Then attaches to the agreement a complete Accounting of your actions plus a Schedule of Distribution. This informs the heirs of how you plan to distribute the estate assets. After all the heirs agree and sign the Settlement Agreement, you can safely make distribution.
When an heir refuses to sign the Settlement Agreement, you are then forced to file a Formal Accounting. Yours would be filed with the Philadelphia County Orphans’ Court. These Formal Accountings must follow specific rules. All the heirs are then given a date to file objections to your accounting. If none are filed, then your Accounting is approved and you are protected.
If an heir objects to your accounting there is a hearing where the judge hears all sides and makes a ruling. Either way, you are then released from future liability and you can finally make your distributions.
If you have questions about Probate and litigation in Philadelphia County, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.