If you have concerns about how an estate was handled or if new assets are discovered after probate is closed, you may wonder what can be done. If you’re the executor of an estate, you may also want to know what can happen after your duties have been completed. It’s important to understand why some estates never close, what happens with the closing process and what to do if new assets are found later on.
Why Do Estates Never Close?
In some cases, the estate is still open months or even years after opening because it hasn’t been completed. This is the most common reason for an estate not to be closed. Beneficiaries who live in another state or country can make for delays in the process. If the estate has assets in more than one state, it can also create delays. Another issue is a problem with the tax returns, which can lengthen the timeline by a year or even longer.
If the estate has assets that are difficult to value or sell, the process can move slowly. Some examples include rare collectibles, patents, and rights to mineral or oil. If the person was the owner of a business, it can take months to sell the company or sell their interest in the company to other owners and finalize the paperwork.
Contested wills or beneficiaries who don’t work together can cause major delays. The executor may need court approval for every step if the beneficiaries don’t agree. If the beneficiaries don’t agree to the stipulations of the will or produce what might be another will, the court process can last for months.
Another issue is with the executor. If the person isn’t able to manage the tasks and responsibilities of the estate, they can cause continual delays or other issues that must be resolved before the process can move forward.
In many cases, an estate that isn’t closed is still in process. However, there may be times when the process is complete, but the estate hasn’t been officially closed. The executor likely doesn’t know how to close an estate or they don’t feel it’s necessary. In this situation, the estate may stay open indefinitely.
Closing the Estate as an Executor
It is an important part of the job of executor to close the estate when all tasks are completed, and the funds have been distributed to the heirs. If they fail to do so, they are considered to still be responsible for the administration of the estate.
Under the Uniform Probate Code, Section 3-1003, the executor may petition the court to close probate with a verified statement that shows the timeline for claims made by creditors has expired and all payments and dispositions of the estate have been completed.
Once the petition has been filed with the closing statement, time counts down for one year. At the end of that year, the executor’s appointment is terminated. During this time, beneficiaries and creditors have a right to file a claim against the estate or the executor. Each state has its own timeline for how long someone has to file an objection to the actions of the executor.
What Happens If You Find New Assets After Closure?
Even the most detail-oriented executor can miss an asset in their search to find any property owned by the deceased. In fact, the situation happens more often than you might think. An asset may be listed in the name of the deceased, but no one is aware it exists. Perhaps someone pays back a debt after the person has died and the probate is closed. The asset technically didn’t even exist until later, but it must still be handled as the property of the deceased.
The first step is to determine if the estate has been closed. You may need to contact the court where probate was handled, which is usually in the county where the deceased person lived. If the estate was not closed, you can proceed as normal. However, if the estate was closed, your next steps may be a bit more complicated. You can review the final distribution from the court. In some cases, it may include a provision which allows for distribution of the new asset without a court order.
Depending on how long it has been since the estate was closed, the bank account for the estate may still be open. If it is open and the asset is in the form of money, it can be deposited into the account. If the account is closed, you can find out if the bank will reopen it without an order from the court.
What happens after the closing of probate will depend primarily on state law. Some states follow the Uniform Probate Code, which allows a person to file a petition with the probate court to have the estate reopened. States that don’t follow the Uniform Probate Code will have their own codes. For instance, in Nevada, assets found after the close of probate must be included in a new petition for probate.
According to Section 3-1008, the same executor may be appointed or a different person may act as executor for the second probate. No claims that were denied from the first probate may be allowed with the second one.
Objections to the Way Probate Was Handled
One of the issues that occur after probate is closed is when a beneficiary or creditor has an objection. They may believe that the executor didn’t perform their duties accurately or that the person acted in a fraudulent way. For instance, it may be discovered that the executor took funds out of the estate for their personal use, which could be seen as embezzlement.
If the person who objects to the way probate was handled and has proof of wrongdoing by the executor, they can file a formal objection. If the beneficiaries believe their inheritance was stolen by being given to another heir or evidence that the will is invalid, they may also have an opportunity to object. However, in most instances, any objections will be filed while the estate is still open to allow for a better opportunity to resolve the issues and ensure all heirs receive what they are entitled to.
If you have issues with an estate that has been closed or you have found new assets, you can hire a probate attorney who can assist you on the next steps to take based on the laws of your state. This can be a complicated process, and an attorney can provide guidance to ensure everything is resolved.