This is taking place in New York state. mother passed away last summer (7 months ago). She has 6 children, one child is the executor of the estate. Everything is meant to be split evenly amongst all of us. She had a permanent residence and a vacation home - neither have been assessed and neither have been put on the market. The executor will not discuss the timeline for this. She also claims that all jewelry was "gifted" to her in the years leading up to mother's death. She will not answer questions directly re: the status of things... aside from filing the paperwork that made her executor she has done absolutely nothing. How long is too long and what next steps are possible?
Elder Law Attorney
This is not yet an unusual amount of time, however the Executor's apparent attitude may be of concern. You may want to contact an estate attorney if you are concerned about the Executor.
Estate Planning Attorney
Probate administration, especially those with significant assets, can legitimately take some time to process. However, during that time, there is usually some progress. I'm not famliar with the specific requirements of NY probate procedures, but those I do know about require the filing of an inventory (listing of all probate assets) within 2-3 months of appointment of the executor. Also, any estate tax return that would be due has to be filed 9 months after date of death. Courts typically want some sort of accounting after about a year. Have you tried to contact the estate attorney? If you don't know his/her name, you can get it from the probate court docket. If you are truly concerned regarding the lack of progress and you have concerns that the executor is converting assets to her own use, then you really need to hire your own attorney to represent your interest as beneficiary. You should do this sooner rather than later because it is difficult if not impossible to undo things and if there is a Will, the Will probably waived the requirement of bond so there is no insurance against which to recover any damages to the estate. This site is replete with stories of people waiting 1,2,5, 10 years before making a complaint against a fiduciary whom they always believed acted improperly. Estate proceedings are intended to be quick (a relative term) but, more important, final. That means, except in very unusual situations, once they are done, they are done. Probate courts expect that beneficiaries are guarding their own interests and, if they think something is wrong, they will say something. That appeals to be the position you are now in. Hire an experienced estate attorney (preferably one with some litigation experience, in case you are correct in your suspicions) NOW. Best wishes to you.
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Both attorney offer sound advice. But this situation does not pass the smell test; something smells fishy here. Secretiveness is a real no-no in estate administration and it usually indicates deeper problems. You need to immediately and I mean now get an estate attorney to represent YOUR interests here as beneficiary. You may need an estate litigation to consider having her removed for cause, demand an accounting and bring a surcharge for any losses she has caused. The jewelry gift sounds very questionable, too.
For removal for cause, please see my article entitled Pennsylvania Probate: Removal of Personal Representative Under PA Estates and Fiduciary Code at the following link: http://www.sjfpc.com/Probate_Removal_Executor_Trustee_PA_Probate_law.html Even though this relates to PA law most states have similar rules.
Get moving on getting an estate litigation TODAY! DO IT NOW!
Hope this helps.
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I'm a NY attorney. You should pay a visit to the Surrogate's Court where the will was filed and check on the files yourself to see what was done. Generally, the executor will not make any distribution of assets within the first 7 months after letters have been issued, referred to as the "claims" period. However, s/he will pay the bills due, etc., and tend to the matters of the estate...