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Estate administration: All legal procedures must be completed

In Texas and other states it’s not uncommon for the beneficiaries of a deceased family member to ask the attorney handling the estate when the estate will be finalized. In fact, legal experts say that it’s normal for beneficiaries to ask the attorney to explain the process of estate administration and for a ballpark estimate on time. Having a communicating relationship with counsel and the executor is a wise thing to do.

Where there may be a significant inheritance, it makes no sense for a beneficiary to be uninformed of the steps involved and the time projections for completion. It’s also perfectly normal to request a personal meeting with the estate attorney to have a better chance to ask questions and be even more fully informed. With that said, it should also be understood that the process of estate administration can be detailed, segmented, and time-consuming.

There are statutory waiting periods that give creditors time to submit their bills and claims. If there is real estate to be sold, the finalization of the estate will generally not happen until after the real estate and other assets are liquidated. Furthermore, disputes can arise with creditors over claims that must be negotiated and settled.

There may even be claims against the estate by disgruntled relatives. Such problems may even require litigation before the probate judge. The estate attorney and the executor must prepare and file various federal and state tax returns. In estates with no serious legal issues, a formal accounting with the court may be avoided, as long as all of the heirs sign receipts, and willingly release the estate from further liability.

Where an accounting and audit by the probate court is required, the time element for the estate administration may be lengthened considerably by the vagaries of court schedules, sending notices, and the like. Whether this process is playing out in Texas or another state, it can reasonably take over a year to have a final settlement of the estate and final distribution of net assets. In cases with legal disputes or complications, the process can continue even longer than that.

Source: nj.com, "Your Money: My estate attorney is avoiding me", Karin Price Mueller, June 30, 2014

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