It can be useful to know what happens with the probate closing process, especially if new assets are found after it is closed.
Maybe you have questions about how an estate was handled, or it could be you’re an executor and want to know if you have to do anything further. Either way, read on to find out what actually happens after probate is closed.
Some Estates Never Close
Not every estate closes early, and some don’t seem to close at all. The reason for probate to drag on for years is usually because it has yet to be completed. A beneficiary who lives in another state or even another country altogether can mean delays.
If the estate itself has assets in different states or countries, this can also make the process move slowly. Something else that can cause a lengthy probate process is tax returns, and these can stretch the timeline by a year or several years.
Maybe the estate has assets which are hard to sell or value, and this will cause delays. Rights to oil or minerals, rare collectibles or patents are example of this.
Maybe the deceased owned a company or an interest in a company, and that isn’t going to be resolved overnight either.
More Reasons for Probate Delays
Beneficiaries not working together or having disagreements can also cause delays. If the will is contested, the executor might have to go to court to decide the next step in the process.
If the beneficiaries produce another will or disagree with the will’s stipulations, you can expect the court process to last for months or even longer.
Perhaps the issue is the executor. If this individual cannot handle the responsibilities and tasks associated with the estate, they can be the reason for the delay.
An estate that isn’t closed is legally still in process, although it is possible for the process to have been completed but the estate to still not be officially closed. Either the executor doesn’t think it’s necessary to close it or they simply know how. If this happens, there might never be a real close on probate.
The Executor Can Close the Estate
After all the necessary paperwork has been finalized and the heirs have received their funds, the executor has to close the estate. If they don’t, they are still legally responsible for the estate administration.
The executor is allowed to petition the court under the Uniform Probate Code, Section 3-1003, to close the probate. They will need a verified statement showing the claims timeline by creditors is expired and all dispositions and payments of the estate are completed.
There is then a one year period to wait after filing, and then the executor’s appointment is terminated.
During this year, creditors and beneficiaries have the right to file a claim against the executor or estate. It is typically a year, but some states have other timelines.
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What About Finding New Assets After Closure?
There are several reasons why some assets might not be discovered at the time of probate, and even an executor focused on the details who think they know of all the assets might have missed some.
This actually happens a lot. Perhaps the deceased purchased an asset but never told anyone about it and doesn’t have the paperwork somewhere it can be found easily.
Maybe someone pays back a debt after the death and then probate is closed. This asset is still there and has to be handled as the deceased’s property just like all the other assets.
The first thing to do is find out whether the estate has been closed. It might be necessary to get in touch with whichever court handled the probate. This is normally in the county where the deceased was a resident.
If it is not yet closed, you can just proceed with probate as normal. If it turns out that it was closed however, it isn’t so straightforward. The final distribution from the court might include a provision for distributing the newly discovered asset without a court order.
The bank account for the estate might still be active if the estate hasn’t been closed for long. If the new asset is money, then it can simply go into that account. Should the account be closed, ask the bank if it will reopen it without a court order.
State law largely determines what happens after probate closes. There is a Uniform Probate Code but not all states follow it. Those that do allow someone to file a petition with the probate court to reopen the estate.
Then there are those that don’t have their own codes, such as Nevada, where you need a new petition for probate if new assets are discovered.
The same executor can be appointed or someone else can act as executor for this second probate, according to Section 3-1008. Nothing denied from the first probate is allowed into the second one.
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What If There Are Objections to the Handling of Probate?
Sometimes probate is closed before a creditor or beneficiary objects to what happened. They might believe the executor did something fraudulent or inaccurate according to the will of the deceased. Perhaps the executor took an asset for themselves which an objector thought was supposed to be divided.
If someone objects and has a valid reason, they are allowed to file a formal objection. Perhaps some beneficiaries feel they should have got an inheritance but it was all left to someone they feel shouldn’t get it. They can also object formally.
Usually any objections are filed while the estate is still open, so heirs get what they are entitled to and all issues can be resolved. However, it could be the case that the probate was closed before someone was aware their benefactor had died.
If you have an issue with a closed estate or you discovered new assets, the best course of action is to hire a probate attorney who can help you, since this can be a complex process and, unless you are familiar with probate law in your state, one best left to the professionals.