My step-daughter inherited most of her mother's estate. She died on 2/1/10, but her step-father, who is the executor, has not released any of her jewelry or cash yet. He's an attorney at a major Houston law firm who filed everything in probate immediately since his money and assets are at stake too, but it seems this is taking too long for my step-daughter. What should be a reasonable time? At stake would be about $75K in jewelry (some before she married him), $20K in furs and less than $200K in cash. This man is much more wealthy than that. The Will did not leave the money in trust.
Estate Planning Attorney
In California the executor could file a petition for final distribution of the estate 4 months after the executor was granted "letters testamentary" (officially appointed) by the Court. Every state varies, but 7 months does not seem like an unreasonable period of time. There may be tax issues or other issues that the executor needs to deal with that could make him need more time to complete the probate. If your step-daughter has a good relationship with her step-father, I suggest that she ask him how much longer he thinks he will need.
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Corporate / Incorporation Lawyer
Once an executor is appointed by the probate court, his only duties are to complete an inventory and appraisement, complete the distribution contemplated by the will, and file a final inventory and close the estate. In Texas, the probate process is generally inexpensive compared to other states, but can be a bit slow. An estate often takes 12-18 months to be probated and closed, and that is usually due to the time it takes for an executor to get the inventory and appraisement completed. Many practitioners would require that be done before any distribution be made, although in a case like this, that seems unnecessary. If the daughter is concerned that the terms of the will are not being honored, she may make application to the Court for a distribution.