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Deadlines govern post-life business

An important part of estate planning and settling an estate is meeting legal deadlines. Selection of a competent executor in this life helps prevent litigation and other confusion after the testator is gone.

The estate's size plays a large role with the time it will take to settle. Typical estates comprised of bank accounts, a home, car and personal possessions are comparatively simple and take less time. However, ownership of small businesses, several property holdings or complex investments take longer to resolve for proper distribution. If the decedent died without a will, additional time may be needed for court-appointment of an administrator and more court supervision.

Time and work is also required if the decedent kept inadequate or disorganized records of the estate's assets. When this occurs, it may take several months to locate all estate assets and debts.

Probate court governs actions for closing the decedent's estate and assures, among other things, that the decedent's assets are properly distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will. The probate process begins when the will is filed with that court.

The probate court governs its own pace. It will decide when it will take certain actions that are needed for settling an estate such as issuing letters of testamentary that are needed for resolving assets such as bank accounts, vehicles, real estate and stock. However, the probate court has the power to control the executor's duties such as distribution of the estate's assets after an accounting was performed.

To avoid delay and probate litigation, the testator can utilize other mechanisms to distribute their assets without undergoing probate. One method includes the creation of a trust.

Family members and other beneficiaries can also delay settlement and it is important for executors to remain objective and keep them informed about the progress of settling the estate. Their grief, disputes over the will and other family issues can slow down matters. Other beneficiaries may not be located.

A qualified estates attorney can help draft a valid will and other important documents and take other steps to expedite settlement and prevent disputes. A lawyer can also assist executors with proper settlement.

Source:, "How quickly do I need to settle an estate?" By Patrick O'Brien, Oct. 30, 2017

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