Do Executors Have to Give an Accounting to Beneficiaries?

By Maggie Lourdes

An executor, sometimes called a personal representative, is an individual appointed by a probate court to administer a decedent's estate. An executor's job is to take control of the estate's assets and distribute them to the decedent's beneficiaries. An executor must also provide an accounting of all assets and distributions for the court and beneficiaries.

Accounting Information

Probate estate executors must prepare accountings to ensure the fair and competent handling of beneficiaries' inheritances. Accounting forms and preparation formalities vary slightly from state to state; however, they all require the same basic information. An executor must disclose to the beneficiaries all actions he has taken for the estate. Receipts for bill payments and the sale of real estate or other property must be listed. Distributions of money or property made to beneficiaries must specify dollar amounts and identify the property and beneficiaries involved. Essentially, beneficiaries are entitled to detailed, accurate accounting from executors.

Informal Accountings

Most estates are administered by independent or informal probate proceedings. Independent probate cases still require executors to provide accountings to beneficiaries and courts. However, the accounting does not require a judge to sign off on the executor's activities. An informal probate accounting may require beneficiaries sign off on the accounting. It may also simply require the beneficiaries be mailed a copy of the accounting and, if no objections are filed within a certain amount of time, the accounting is deemed acceptable.

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Formal Accountings

Courts can require an executor's accounting to receive direct judicial scrutiny and approval. Beneficiaries may attend hearings for approval; however, it is a judge who must ultimately approve accountings in these cases. Supervised estates require these types of judicial accounting approvals. A supervised probate estate has heavier judicial oversight. An example of when an estate may require court supervision would be when beneficiaries engage in large disputes.

Frequency of Accountings

Generally, a final accounting must be filed before an estate closes. This gives beneficiaries the opportunity to review all of an executor's activities before the file is permanently closed in court. If an estate takes longer than one year to administer, the executor usually must file an accounting at the end of the first year. Subsequent accountings must be filed as an executor continues administration.

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References

Related articles

Who Enforces the Execution of a Will?

In drafting your will, you may appoint a person to serve as your executor, also known as a personal representative. This person will have the responsibility of carrying out your wishes pursuant to the will. Because the executor has a number of responsibilities and can be held personally responsible if they are not properly carried out, carefully consider appointing someone who is trustworthy and capable of carrying out the somewhat complicated probate process.

Can an Executor of an Estate Spend Any Money From the Estate?

Executors are allowed to spend estate money as they guide the estate through probate – they just can't spend it on themselves. Probate can be an expensive process, and your executor does not have to pay the costs herself. But if she does occasionally use her own money on behalf of the estate, she's entitled to reimbursement. But it's best to check with an attorney first to make sure she's taking money in the proper way.

What Happens After an Estate Has Been Probated?

Whether a person dies with our without a will, in most cases, his estate must go through the probate process. Although state probate laws vary, the probate process is fairly uniform throughout the United States. It is generally a court-supervised process for gathering the assets of the deceased, paying his creditors and taxes and then distributing his remaining assets to his beneficiaries if there is a will -- or to his heirs, according to the state's laws of intestate succession, if there is no will. During the probate process, real property owned by the deceased is retitled to his beneficiaries or heirs. To open probate and begin the process, an interested party, typically a beneficiary or heir, must file a petition with the state court that handles probate.

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