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.
The executor is always the executor. For example, let’s say 20 years after the deceased’s death, the personal representative discovers a previously unknown bank account. The executor may have distributed all other assets 19 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.
Because the executor is responsible forever, the administrator 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 is stuck paying the legal bill. Instead, before making any distribution, the administrator 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, the administrator 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.
If you have any questions about Closing an Estate or The Probate Process, feel free to contact us to schedule a free consultation. For more than two decades Klenk Law has focused only on Estate Law. We’ve seen it all, and this experience allows us to explain complex estate law and Probate techniques clearly and concisely. We make it easy for you to understand The Probate Process so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.