Because executors can live on one coast or the other and anywhere in between, there’s no simple answer to the question, “How long does an executor have to settle an estate?” Many states have different laws on the books that need to be followed that can change timeframes from location to location. Also, estates can range in size from very simple to extremely complicated; the more complex the estate the longer the process to settle the estate.
On the other hand, there are enough similarities that we can come to some conclusion regarding this very common question.
One of the executor’s first steps is to file the will of the deceased individual in probate court. This should occur as soon as possible after the death so that the court can determine if the will is valid and then oversee the transfer of the deceased’s property. Again, keep in mind that probate laws differ from state to state.
The executor has many responsibilities, and he or she needs to show progress or risk being removed as executor by the probate court judge. With that in mind, the executor should take the following steps:
- Notify heirs that the individual has passed.
- Contact banks and financial institutions, the Social Security Administration and creditors who are owed money.
- Take an inventory of all assets, including bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, valuables, etc. Some assets may require a professional appraisal to determine their market value. When the inventory is complete, it should be filed with the probate court.
- Take steps to safeguard all property.
- Open a bank account in the name of the estate to pay unpaid bills.
- File tax returns on behalf of the estate.
- Prepare to deal with anyone who may object to the will. If this occurs, it is in the executor’s best interest to consult with an estate attorney.
Don’t rush the process
The probate process can take many months, sometimes even years to complete. And while it’s important to keep the process moving toward completion, it’s equally important not to rush through the process hoping to just get it over with. For example, an executor who improperly distributes assets from the estate before settling with creditors and paying taxes could be held personally liable.
An experienced Realtor, tax attorney and estate liquidator are all important sources of information and are always willing to help their clients through the estate settlement process. If you’re feeling overwhelmed as an executor, please know that you are not alone and that there are skilled professional just waiting to be of assistance!
How long does an executor have to settle an estate?
As much time as needed as long as they are meeting any deadlines set by the probate court and state laws are being properly followed.