How to Find Out If an Estate Has Been Settled

By Anna Assad

Estate settlement occurs when the court approves the final report from the estate's appointed representative, usually an executor or administrator. The estate settlement process involves payment of the deceased's debts, final tax return fillings and the transfer and sale of assets with property and sale monies going to the deceased's heirs or will beneficiaries. Estate proceedings are a matter of public record, so if you need to know whether an estate was settled, you can find out by viewing the estate's court records. Finding out whether an estate is settled is useful in various situations, especially if you're a family member or will beneficiary who didn't receive your share, or a creditor who never received payment.

Estate settlement occurs when the court approves the final report from the estate's appointed representative, usually an executor or administrator. The estate settlement process involves payment of the deceased's debts, final tax return fillings and the transfer and sale of assets with property and sale monies going to the deceased's heirs or will beneficiaries. Estate proceedings are a matter of public record, so if you need to know whether an estate was settled, you can find out by viewing the estate's court records. Finding out whether an estate is settled is useful in various situations, especially if you're a family member or will beneficiary who didn't receive your share, or a creditor who never received payment.

Step 1

Locate the probate or surrogate court that handled the estate proceedings. The court may be in the county where the deceased resided or where he owned real estate.

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Step 2

Contact the court clerk of each court you locate. Inquire as to the procedure for reviewing estate files. Procedures vary by county. Some courts allow a person to mail in a written request for estate records, while others require an in-person visit. Follow the instructions of the clerk to view the estate records. You'll need to give her information about the deceased, usually the deceased's legal name and the date of death if you have it, so she can locate the estate paperwork.

Step 3

View the estate file. You need to find the final estate account. The executor or administrator of the estate must file a final account to settle the estate and receive a release from the court. You'll find a final account and release in the files of a settled estate. Write down the name and address of the estate's attorney, as shown on the court files if you don't see a final account or release. Write down the name and address of the executor or estate administrator if the estate did not use an attorney.

Step 4

Contact the estate's attorney or administrator if you want to inquire about the estate's settlement status. Identify your relationship to the deceased, if any. Give your reason for asking. The attorney or administrator may not respond to you if you don't state why you're interested in the estate.

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How to File to Be an Administrator of Estate After a Death

References

Related articles

How to Be an Executor of a Will

The executor of a will is responsible for carrying out the instructions in the will that explain how to distribute the deceased person's estate, according to FindLaw. Usually, an executor is chosen by the person making the will, although in some cases a probate court appoints an executor. Although you can carry out your duties as executor without an attorney's guidance, consider hiring an attorney if the estate is particularly large or if you expect the will to be contested.

Ways to Settle an Estate

You've lost a loved one, and you're still dealing with the emotional impact. Unfortunately, that's not all you have to deal with. Unless the deceased had no possessions or debts, the final affairs of the estate must be settled. How that happens depends on what arrangements he made in advance, if any. Prior arrangements to handle estates may be made with an attorney, independently, or by using an online document service.

What Happens if No One Moves to Settle an Estate?

Once a person dies, a loved one usually files a petition in probate court to start proceedings to settle the estate. Estate settlement involves appointing a person to manage the estate -- an executor if there's a will, an administrator otherwise -- including final bill payment and distribution of the deceased's property. If no one files for estate proceedings in court, what happens next depends on the type of property the deceased, known as the decedent, owned, whether he had debts and state law.

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