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When Does the Estate Get Distributed

After all estate assets are collected and debts and taxes paid, the Executor distributes the balance of estate assets pursuant to the terms of the Will.


Often the Executor will distribute tangible personal property (for example, furniture and jewelry) before the estate administration has been completed. If unforeseen debts surface and assets have already been distributed that cannot be recovered, the Executor may be personally responsible for the payment of those debts. Therefore, if assets are distributed, it is important that the beneficiaries agree in writing to return them to the estate if the Executor requests refunding.


Next, the Executor will generally pay cash legacies and again obtain appropriate receipts and releases from the beneficiaries. It is also customary for the Executor to require the beneficiaries of such legacies to sign agreements stating that such legacies will be repaid if the estate is ultimately unable to pay all of its debts.


After the estate is distributed, the Executor prepares an accounting which sets forth all estate assets and "accounts" for monies earned, spent and distributed to beneficiaries during the course of the estate administration. The accounting can be informal if all of the interested parties are competent adults who agree that an accounting before the Court is unnecessary. A judicial accounting can be to the Executor's advantage if he or she desires a discharge from all duties with the blessing of the Court. The accounting is the final duty of the Executor.

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