Probate: Final Settlement of Estate
Generally, the Executor should not distribute any estate assets until such time as the period for creditors to make claims expires and all debts of the estate, including death taxes, have been paid. However, once the Executor understands the estate and the likely claims, he or she can make partial distributions to heirs, retaining a reserve for unanticipated claims and the costs of closing out the estate.
In anticipation of the closure of the estate, there are certain matters that should be reviewed. Basically, the probate process is the process of changing legal title to real and personal property. All credit card, electric, telephone, water and any other account should not remain in the name of the decedent and should be properly terminated or transferred. The same review should be made of all bank, stock, investment and other related accounts. The issue of the necessity of Executor deeds should be discussed with the attorney. All vehicle titles, boat registrations and the like should be properly transferred.
In other words, as the Executor monitors the mail over the period of months of probate, the Executor should begin to take note of the change of legal title. As the estate begins to reach closure, the name of the decedent on any correspondence should be brought to the attention of the attorney.
Finally, after the receipt of tax releases, if any, the Final Accounting is prepared. In order to finalize and formally close the estate, this complete and detailed statement of all acts of the executor is prepared and filed with the Probate Court. The balance of the assets remaining in the hands of the Executor is distributed as directed in the Will. The Clerk of Court audits the accounting and formally closes the estate.