How Long Is Somebody the Executor of a Will?

By Beverly Bird

The executor of a will is in office from the time she opens probate and is sworn in until the court closes the estate at the end of probate. This can take anywhere from a few months in a state that offers a simplified process for wills, to three or more years for complicated estates. Several situations can make the probate process take longer.

The executor of a will is in office from the time she opens probate and is sworn in until the court closes the estate at the end of probate. This can take anywhere from a few months in a state that offers a simplified process for wills, to three or more years for complicated estates. Several situations can make the probate process take longer.

Testator’s Organization Habits

If the testator, or the person who left the will, was organized during his life, the initial stages of probate will be relatively easy, and you can probably accomplish the first tasks quickly. Executing a will involves identifying the deceased’s assets and notifying his creditors that he has passed away. The faster you can locate the paperwork corresponding to all these things, the more you can expedite the probate process.

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Tax Returns

The criteria for federal estate taxes changes yearly. Generally, a probate estate is liable for them when the overall value reaches a certain point. If you have to file estate taxes on the value of the estate, there is a strong possibility that the IRS will audit the return. If this happens, you cannot close probate until you get a closing letter from the IRS indicating that they have approved the return.

Sale of Assets

Part of the probate process is paying off the deceased’s debts with his assets. After you have determined what those debts and assets are, you must figure out if the assets are sufficient to cover everything that is due. If there are not enough liquid or cash assets to accomplish this, the executor might have to sell off real estate and other concrete assets to raise the funds. This can prolong the probate process and keep you in office awhile longer.

Creditor Disputes

In every state, the executor of a will must give notice to the deceased’s creditors early in the probate process, usually both by registered mail if you know about them and a notice in the newspaper if you do not. Then each state orders a waiting period while the creditors make claims against the estate for what is owed to them, usually three to four months. As the claims come in, you must decide whether or not they are legitimate. If they are, you will pay them through the assets of the estate. If they are not, you have to notify them that you are not going to pay them and they can then elect to file a lawsuit to have a judge decide whether or not their debt is valid. Such a lawsuit can take months and extend your time as executor.

Will Contests

A will contest is the greatest impediment to closing an estate. If one occurs, it is a whole separate law suit. It usually involves a trial, depositions, exchange of discovery and pretrial motions. If a beneficiary or heir contests the deceased’s will, you can count on being executor for a period of years since you are not relieved of your duties until the estate settles.

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References

Related articles

What Is a Notice of Probate?

Probate is a court-supervised process for determining and gathering the assets of a deceased person, known as the decedent, paying his debts, and distributing his assets to his beneficiaries and heirs. Although state law varies regarding specific procedures, notice of probate is meant to accomplish the same thing in every state; that is, notice of probate gives parties who have an interest in a decedent's estate warning that the probate process is being initiated. As beneficiaries may not know they were included in a decedent's will, notice gives them an opportunity to assert their rights at the very beginning of probate administration.

How Long Does an Executor Have to Probate a Will in New York State?

An executor can invest as much time as is necessary to completely settle an estate in New York. However, if the executor assumes the office but does nothing toward meeting her responsibilities to the estate, then either the court, the beneficiaries or both will get involved to remove her from office. Some variables can affect the length of time for probate in New York, but an executor should complete the process within a year if there are no complications, or three years for a complex estate.

Wills & Probate in North Carolina

If a will is valid and there are no objections to it, and if the estate owes no taxes to either North Carolina or the IRS, probate in the state can take as little as three months. North Carolina offers abbreviated probate processes for estates where the entire value of assets is no more than $10,000 or when a surviving spouse inherits the deceased’s entire estate.

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