MS Law on Estate Probate Periods

by Stephanie Reid

If you are named administrator or personal representative for a Mississippi estate, you likely have a number of questions about the probate process – particularly pertaining to the various deadlines that apply to the estate. The Mississippi Code provides several deadlines and time limits for the milestones of an estate administration, and also provides for potential personal liability if you do not perform the required tasks on time. The code also provides heirs and beneficiaries with extensions of time if certain estates are exceptionally complex or take longer than expected to resolve.

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Opening an Estate

As an administrator, your first task is to open the estate in the Mississippi Chancery Court situated in the district where your loved one passed away. You have 30 days from the date of the decedent’s death to complete this task. You must provide the Chancery Court with an original will and a Petition for Probate of Will, after which the court will issue Letters Testamentary to the selected administrator. If an estate is not opened by a family member within 30 days, a creditor may be appointed as administrator instead.

Creditor Claims Period

Once the estate is open, any person or business with a claim against the decedent may submit the debt to the estate for payment. As the administrator, you have a duty to notify known creditors that the debtor passed away. A creditor has 90 days to make a claim from the date the notification was mailed. You must also publish notification of the decedent’s death in a local newspaper for three consecutive weeks. Creditors have 90 days from the first date of publication to make a claim against the estate. If the creditor does not make a claim within the time period allowed, it is considered waived.

Inventory and Appraisal

In most cases, an administrator must arrange for an inventory and appraisal of estate property. This can become a time-sensitive matter for purposes of valuing property subject to possible estate taxation. Therefore, the Mississippi Code requires an inventory and appraisal to be completed within 90 days of the date the Chancery Court granted Letters of Administration, which occurs when the estate is properly opened. If the inventory is more than five days late, the sheriff may issue a Rule to Show Cause requiring you to explain why it is late.

Contesting a Will

If a beneficiary wishes to contest the validity of the decedent’s will, he must do so within two years from the date the will is admitted to probate. If the will is not contested within the two-year period, the probate is considered final and “forever binding.” The Mississippi Code provides an extension of this time if the contesting party was a minor during the probate period or was suffering from a mental condition. If the reason for the contest is based on fraud, the two-year limit begins when the fraud was discovered.

Continuing a Business

If you are the administrator of an estate that included an active business, the Chancery Court may allow you to continue the affairs of the business, including arranging for its transition, for a period of three years after the granting of Letters of Administration. This law allows the administrator to purchase goods and stock necessary to keep the business running as well as promote and market the business.

Final Accounting

The probate period comes to a close once a final accounting of estate property is entered. Before a final accounting, the administrator must make sure all lawful creditors’ claims are paid and all assets are located and appraised. As a final step, the administrator must present to the court evidence showing account balances and other documentation relating to estate property and assets. Mississippi law does not give a specific deadline for the final accounting, however the administrator is required to perform his tasks diligently and within a reasonable amount of time. If the administrator is taking an unreasonable amount of time or has not progressed with the estate, beneficiaries may file an action against him as a derelict fiduciary. Any money damages caused by the administrator’s delays could be assigned to him personally.