Section 7


The final distribution of the estate's property requires the consent of all the heirs of an estate where the decedent did not leave a Will and the consent of the residual beneficiaries of an estate where the decedent left a Will. This begins with a summary report (the "Informal Accounting") submitted by or on behalf of the Executor/Administrator to the beneficiaries/heirs and ends when those individuals approve the proposed distributions contained in the Informal Accounting.

After the Executor or Administrator has sold or liquidated all of the decedent's assets and paid all of the decedent's debts, administration expenses and taxes, the attorney for the Executor/Administrator typically prepares the Informal Accounting detailing all of the estate's activities from the date of death until the conclusion of the estate. The Informal Accounting includes the Executor's/Administrator's proposed distributions of the estate's net proceeds to each beneficiary/heir. Each residual beneficiary/heir receives a copy of the Informal Accounting, along with a "Receipt and Release." When all the Receipts and Releases are signed, the assets and income of the estate can be distributed.

Depending on the complexity of the estate, as much as two years may elapse from the death of the decedent before it is completed. An estate which is not required to file estate tax returns can typically be completed within 8-12 months; an estate which is required to file estate tax returns can typically be completed within 18-24 months.

These guidelines assume there is no major disagreement with how the Executor/Administrator handled the estate. At times, however, serious disputes can arise. In the event that a beneficiary/heir disputes actions taken by the Executor or Administrator or where the beneficiaries are minors or are otherwise under a legal disability the estate settlement must be overseen by the Court. In such a case the Executor/Administrator will be required to file a formal Judicial Accounting with the Surrogate's Court. The beneficiary will then have the opportunity to object to the Judicial Accounting. The Surrogate's Court will ultimately determine if the Executor/Administrator properly fulfilled his or her obligations to the estate and its beneficiaries.

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Howard Garfinkel, Esq.

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