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What can I do when the Executor is Taking a Long Time?

Posted on Wed Apr 10, 2024, on Formal Accounting

From Our “Ask a Question” Mailbag: “My mother died two years ago. My brother is the Executor but has stopped returning my calls. This didn’t seem like such a complicated estate. When the Executor is taking a long time, what can I do?”

What can I do when the Executor is Taking a Long Time?

Probate Attorney Daniella Horn

What can I do when the Executor is Taking a Long Time?

Once appointed by the county, an executor is tasked with “executing” the plan outlined in the Will. Executing the plan means securing real estate, gathering bank accounts, and paying taxes and bills. The goal is to tie up the deceased person’s responsibilities and then distribute what remains to the heirs.

Managing an estate all takes time. But it should not take too much time. But what is too much? This depends on the estate. If a person dies in February, the Executor must then file the person’s final income tax return the following April. Filing the final income tax return could take over a year. Sometimes, there are businesses to sell or close down, squatters to expel, or problematic houses to sell. There could be any number of reasons why an estate could go longer than one year, but the Executor’s job is to keep the heirs informed of these reasons.

One Year is a Good Rule of Thumb.

If the estate has been open for more than a year and the Executor has not provided a clear explanation, you should consult with a Probate Attorney. While probate may be a mystery to you, and an executor may be giving you the cold shoulder, an experienced Probate Lawyer may be able to sort out and explain the problem to you. Perhaps there is a good reason for the delay. And, perhaps, the Executor is a poor communicator. Paying an attorney to secure an answer for you is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

What if there is no Good Reason for the Delay?

What if your Probate Attorney discovers no satisfactory reason for the delay? As you asked, what can I do when the Executor is taking a long time?

Each state has a system for addressing the Executor who is dragging their feet. These systems differ in their details, but in general, they follow the same pattern. Your Probate Attorney can file a Petition with the court. This Petition asks the judge to order the Executor to provide an accounting. This “accounting” is a detailed report to the judge and shared with all interested heirs. Each state has a specific, required estate accounting format. The Executor must comply. If the Executor refuses, the judge can find them in contempt of court and place them in jail. 

For more information, please follow this link to my article,  Formal Accountings, Everything You Need to Know.

Schedule of Distribution.

Along with the Accounting, your Probate Lawyer can demand a Schedule of Distribution. A Schedule of Distribution is the Executor’s plan to close the estate and distribute the assets. It should include a timeline.

How to Communicate Your Displeasure to the Judge?

If you are satisfied with the Formal Accounting and Schedule of Distribution, then there is no need for action. Perhaps all the Executor needed was a “rap” on the knuckles form the judge. If the Executor’s plan is acceptable, you let the Executor complete his tasks.

But, if you disagree with anything the Executor has shared on the Accounting, you may object to the judge. For example, let’s say the Executor has been living in the house for two years and now doesn’t want to pay rent. You can have your Probate Attorney object. You can ask the judge to order the Executor to pay fair market rent.

Or, what if you are not content with the Schedule of Distribution? For example, what if the Executor calculates the estate will pay your inheritance far in the future? Your Probate Attorney may also object to the Executor’s plan. If the judge agrees, the judge may order the Executor to move more quickly. In some cases, the judge may even decide to remove the Executor.

In Conclusion, What can I do when the Executor is Taking a Long Time?

I hope you found this short article about what I can do when the Executor is taking a long time helpful. I have also included some links for more detailed information. Contact us if you want to know more or have an estate that needs our help. Let our Probate and Estate Planning lawyers help walk you through what can be a confusing process. Feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. It’s All We Do: 

Wills, Trusts, Probate, and Estate Litigation!

It’s What We Do!

Peter Klenk, Esq. Pennsylvania Probate Lawyer, New Jersey Probate Attorney


Formal Accounting, Probate Attorney, Probate Lawyer

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