When Is an Estate Considered Settled?

By John Cromwell

When a person dies, his property is gathered into an estate. The estate is formed for the purpose of settling his outstanding liabilities and distributing what remains to his heirs and beneficiaries. The process for distributing a decedent’s estate varies by state. As a result, review the laws of the state where the decedent lived to determine the process related to your specific set of circumstances. Generally, an estate is considered settled when a court declares the estate closed.

Initiating Probate

The legal process of settling an estate is known as probate. The process begins when a court learns of a decedent’s death, generally due to an interested party filing for a probate proceeding. The court will begin reviewing possible copies of the decedent’s will, checking to see that it was appropriately drafted. The court will validate one will as controlling over the estate. The court then appoints the executor named in the will to oversee the estate. If no valid will exists, the court will appoint an administrator.

Role of the Executor or Administrator

The person chosen to oversee the estate must determine what property is in the estate and establish the property's value. Probate property is anything that is solely titled in the decedent’s name. Jointly-owned property, life insurance policies and retirement accounts are generally excluded from probate estates. The executor must then pay the decedent’s outstanding debts using the estate's assets. The remaining property is distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will. If there is no will, the assets will be distributed to the decedent’s relatives, known as heirs.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Terminating Probate

The probate court will review all related paperwork regarding the administration of the estate. Once the court is assured the estate’s assets have been distributed in accordance with state law, it will issue an order declaring the estate closed. Once the estate is closed, all of the administrator’s responsibilities are terminated and no other claimant or potential heir can try to make a claim for the decedent’s assets.

Small Estates

Some states permit estates with small asset valuations to be settled outside of probate. Illinois, for example, allows an estate without real estate and valued at or below $100,000 to be resolved using an affidavit. The administrator of the estate would still gather the decedent’s assets, pay off liabilities and distribute the remaining assets to the appropriate heirs. However, the administrator would do this without court supervision. Once the process is completed, the estate’s administrator completes an affidavit regarding what assets composed the estate, how those assets were distributed and confirm all of the decedent’s outstanding claims were paid. The administrator submits the completed affidavit to the probate court, which reviews it and then closes the estate once it is satisfied all steps were properly followed. Check your own state’s laws to see if it has a similar procedure.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
The Law of an Executor Settling an Estate in Louisiana
 

References

Related articles

Massachusetts Laws Regarding the Administrator of an Estate

Probate is the court-supervised process whereby the assets of a deceased person are collected and distributed according to the terms of a will, or by state law if no valid will exists. If named in the will, the person charged with handling the probate process and reporting to the court is usually known as an executor. If not named in the will, or if there is no will, the court appoints an administrator to oversee the distribution of assets.

What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will in Nebraska?

If someone dies with a valid will, the will leaves instructions about who should manage his estate and who should inherit his property. But, when a person dies without a will, he is said to have died “intestate” and Nebraska’s laws of intestate succession govern the way his estate is managed and distributed.

Estate Settlement & Division of Property From a Will

Estates are settled through probate, which is a process overseen by a local court to ensure that the decedent’s debts are paid and that the remainder of the estate is distributed to the correct beneficiaries. A will may also stipulate that the property should be divided amongst the beneficiaries subject to certain conditions. It is important to note that the probate laws vary by state. If you are an executor of a will, review the laws of the state where probate is taking place.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

What Are the Requirements for Settling an Inheritance?

The probate process is designed to determine the disposition of property left behind when someone dies. The local ...

What Is the Meaning of Settle Estate?

A Last Will and Testament contains instructions for the distribution of a person's assets, also referred to as the ...

What Assets Need to Be Listed for Probate?

If you are appointed as the executor or administrator of an estate, one of the most important responsibilities you have ...

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. ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED