How to Obtain a Discharge After Probate

By Heather Frances J.D.

In your will, you can nominate an executor, or representative, to manage your estate between your death and the distribution to your heirs. While it is important for you to make a smart decision about whom you nominate, his appointment will not last forever. At some point, his job is finished and he will be discharged from his position. Your executor must operate within your state’s laws, and state laws vary regarding when and how an executor is released from these duties.

Probate

Probate typically begins when the court appoints your executor and determines the validity of your will. Depending on the size of your estate and your state’s laws, the process may be heavily supervised or nearly unsupervised. Your executor’s role is to gather your estate’s assets, pay your debts and distribute any remaining assets to your beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of your will. You may wish to name someone who can keep track of paperwork and details since the process typically requires filing several batches of paperwork with the court. If you do not name an executor or do not make a valid will, the court will name an administrator to manage your estate.

Executor Duties

Though state laws vary, your executor generally must notify beneficiaries and creditors, pay your debts, pay taxes due and distribute the assets left in your estate to your beneficiaries. During this process, your executor has a duty to deal honestly with your estate and represent its best interests rather than his own. After his duties are complete, he can be discharged from his role, but the process of obtaining a discharge varies between states. Typically, your executor must file a final accounting with the court and a petition to close the estate or other closing statement.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Formal Vs. Informal

States may have multiple versions of probate depending on the size of your estate. For example, Colorado has a shortened version of probate for estates that are under $50,000 in value and have no real estate. Larger or more complicated estates typically require a more formal process that is heavily supervised by the court. In more formal estates, your executor may need the court’s permission to distribute remaining assets to your beneficiaries before being discharged. If you do not want your executor to have to deal with the more formal process, you may want to incorporate trusts or other forms of non-probate transfers into your estate planning.

Discharge Procedures

The court may require your executor to attend a hearing before issuing a discharge, or he might be able to obtain his discharge by filing the estate’s closing paperwork. For example, California courts require your executor to file a final account, report and petition for final distribution, and he must request a hearing with the court. He must give notice of the hearing to interested persons, such as potential beneficiaries and heirs. At the hearing, the court will issue an order approving final distribution. Your beneficiaries can waive the requirement for your executor to file the final account, but they must sign a written waiver or acknowledgement.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Legal Process of Benefactors in a Will
 

References

Related articles

Duties of the Executor of a Will in Texas

Wills often nominate an executor to administer the deceased’s estate after he dies. Once officially appointed by a Texas court, the executor must gather the assets of the deceased, notify his creditors and pay his debts and taxes. After all this is done, the executor distributes the deceased’s remaining assets to those entitled to receive them under the terms of the will.

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.

Do Beneficiaries Have to Sign Off on Probate of a Will?

As a beneficiary named in someone’s will, you may want a say in how the deceased’s estate is administered. However, in most cases, you won’t have any control over the details of estate administration and don’t have to sign off on probate as a whole, but you may have some important rights at certain times in the process.

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

Related articles

The Process of Opening an Estate

Although the process of opening an estate varies from state to state, many aspects of the process are essentially the ...

How to Resign as Executor of a Will in Texas

The estate of any deceased Texas resident is subject to the Texas probate process. Probate involves the Texas Probate ...

What Do I Do With His Will if My Dad Passed Away?

When parents pass away, and leave behind a last will and testament, their heirs must navigate the often-complex process ...

How Does the Executor of an Estate Resign in California?

Probate is a court-supervised process that transfers legal title of property from the estate of the deceased, known as ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED