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How long can the Executive of an estate drag out the settling of the estate. Can a beneficiary force him to settle it?

Wakefield, MA |

My mother died January 22, 2012. My older brother is the Executive of her estate. He has not settled it. When I ask him what else needs to be done he tells me that he is very busy and not to worry about it

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Attorney answers 5


Some estates may take three or more years to settle. The Executor must settle all debts, sell any real property (unless otherwise provided in the will), and otherwise liquidate the assets. After all of this, the executor must file a final accounting with the Probate Court.

No attorney-client relationship is created in responding to this question, and advice provided is based solely on very limited facts presented, and therefore may not be correct. You are advised that it is always best to contact a competent and experienced with the practice of law in the county in which you reside.

Jennifer A Deland

Jennifer A Deland


Yes, there is a lot of work involved, but see my answer - it sounds from the question as if the work may not have been started yet.


I don't know how complex this estate may be, whether there's been any creditor's claims that needed to be settled, and so forth. The first question I have is whether your brother has filed his Inventory and Account. If he has not, you can get a court order to compel him to do so. That may well force him to focus on closing up the estate.

See an estate planning attorney for further guidance.

E. Alexandra "Sasha" Golden is a Massachusetts lawyer. All answers are based on Massachusetts law. All answers are for educational purposes and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to a question.


Very few things in courts (except criminal prosecutions) happen on a time table. When it comes to the settlement of an estate, it will all depend on the size, number and location of beneficiaries, location of real property, whether any objections were filed and a myriad of other factors. Twelve or fourteen months is not an extraordinary length of time to settle an estate. When the estate is settled, the executor must file an accounting with the court. You are also free to check the file (for any orders issued by the court, etc) to understand what, if anything is causing delays.

This answer is provided for informational purposes only and it is not intended as legal advice. Additionally, this answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you wish to obtain legal advice specific to your case, please consult with a local attorney

Jennifer A Deland

Jennifer A Deland


Yes, but before you can finish, you have to start. See my answer.


I agree in part that some estates may take a long time to handle, but generally an estate only needs to stay open one year to address creditor claims. You can always file a petition for an accounting which requires the executor to report to the court. If you think something more nefarious is happening you can ask that the estate be put into formal status and overseen by the court. This, of course, will chew up more estate assets. The issue ultimately is how much is at stake for you and what you feel is not being done. You should be getting honest answers about what is happening.

The above comments are general in nature and not intended to be legal advise nor create an attorney/client relationship. You should seek the advise of attorney working for you about all the facts of your case before taking an action.


Yes, you can take action in court. But, this is the thing - has your brother done anything? If his response is that he is "too busy" then he may not have. The fact that he is named in the will as "executor" does not mean that he actually has started the process of getting legally appointed. This could be a problem, because the law now requires that probate be started within 3 years of the death. And, given his attitude, he might let this deadline slip by.

If he hasn't done anything, you could start the process yourself. Unfortunately, although probate has been simplified recently, it's still far from A "do it yourself" proposition. Why not talk to a lawyer about it ? If you start the process, your brother may agree to let you take over, or, he may suddenly decide he is not "too busy" after all.

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