I have to pay a valid claim and give the rest to the beneficiary. It is a pretty straightforward situation where I don't see how it can be contested (the claim is what it is, and the rest goes to the beneficiary). I'd like to close the estate but don't think a full out complete settlement is necessary. I also have the assent of the beneficiary. If I just file a closing statement and wait a year, is that the same effect as a complete settlement? My thought is that it takes months for the complete settlement to be approved anyway, and it costs more.
You can give the beneficiary some money, but until a year has passed the estate is still liable for possible claims to come up. All of the costs and fees of administering the estate are priority claims and should be paid by the estate. If the estate is in formal probate, you have to petition for complete settlement. Without knowing the exact details of this estate it's hard to say what must be done. If you can't figure it out, I highly suggest working with an attorney to prevent making a mistake that would impose liability on you.
I am a Massachusetts attorney and answer questions based on Massachusetts law. The above answer is for educational purposes only and does not create an attorney client relationship or constitute legal advice.
It is always best to work with an attorney to go over the individual and specific issues involved in your legal problem. Without knowing the specif circumstances such as what has been filed in court, if it is formal or informal probate, etc... This question cannot be answered. There could be further potential claims by creditors or other individuals within that year time frame which could leave you on the hook if the monies and assets have been given to the beneficiary prematurely. You should contact a probate attorney and review your case with them. You do not want to make a mistake that can cause further problems with the estate.
This information does not constitute legal advice. Without more information this is merely an answer to a question. If you would like legal advice tailored to your specific questions you should contact and retain a lawyer.
There are important differences between what a Decree and Order of Complete Settlement and a Closing Settlement means. YHoweer, you can't file either of them until one year after the date of the decedent's death.
A decree on a petition for complete settlement protects you from future claims that you inappropriately handled the estate or otherwise breached your fiduciary duty. Further, you need to have an account allowed if you had to take out a commerical surety bond as a condition of your appointment.
A closing statement simply says that everyone has been paid and there is nothing left to do. It does not discharge you from your appointment as personal representative. After one year, the closing statement cannot be challenged except for fraud or clear error.
Which path you choose depends on several factors, including whether there was a Will, a need to determine the heirs, whether real estate passed to a survivor without heirs being determined, and so on. A meeting with a probate lawyer will be very helpful and not very expensive.
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.
The other answers are all correct. Prudence and the most accurate answer would require more facts and a one year wait. But where I practice, (Worcester County Probate), the Closing Statement is generally sufficient unless other issues need adjudication, such as approving the Account, approving a questionable distribution, determining testacy or intestacy, determining heirs or construing an ambiguous Will provision. Those issues require the Petition for Complete Settlement. If you're in Informal Probate and are well assured there are no other possible claims, and it's been at least 6 months since the death, then the Closing Statement can be enough in Worcester County.
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