What Happens After Probate Is Closed?
If you’re currently the Executor of an estate, it may be beneficial to understand what happens after probate is closed. For example, what do you do if you discover a new asset after the estate administration is complete? Also, what can happen to the estate after completing your duties as Executor? It’s important for you to understand why these and other probate processes are never complete.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the process of distributing a deceased person’s property to their beneficiaries or heirs after they pass away. The probate process is subject to the state’s probate laws where the decedent lived when they passed away. Regardless of whether someone had a Will when they passed away, their estate may be subject to probate court. If someone passes away without a Will, their estate will be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws. If the decedent had a Will and named someone as Executor, that person typically has the priority to open probate. If the person didn’t have a Will, then a family member may do so. Each state has its own laws, so it’s important to consult an attorney in your state.
Even though the probate process varies from state to state, there are a few common steps:
- Validating and filing the decedent’s Will (if they had one)
- Creating an Inventory of the decedent’s assets
- Publishing Notice to Creditors that the decedent has passed
- Selling assets to pay off debts
- Locating and notifying the heirs of the decedent’s passing
- Distributing estate assets to beneficiaries or their heirs
- Closing the estate
What Is Closing Probate?
When probate is ready to close, it means that the Executor of the estate has completed all of their duties, and the estate assets are ready to be distributed to the beneficiaries or heirs. However, the Executor must do a few things to close the probate, one of which is a final accounting for the estate. The final accounting should show all the estate assets with their value, any debts the decedent had that were paid from the estate, and any estate expenses (including taxes).
The beneficiaries or heirs are allowed to review the final accounting and approve it or dispute it with the Executor. Once everyone signs off on the accounting, the estate assets can be distributed. After the estate debts and taxes have been paid, the Executor is ready to close the estate with the probate court. Once the court receives it, the probate court will close the estate.
What Happens After Probate Is Closed?
After probate is closed, there is still a period of time where certain individuals, like beneficiaries or creditors, can file a complaint against the estate or the Executor. There are a variety of reasons why a creditor or beneficiary may decide to file a complaint:
- They felt the estate was mishandled by the Executor
- A beneficiary believes that the Executor violated their fiduciary responsibility
- A creditor objects because they did not get proper notice of their right to make a claim against the estate with respect to unpaid debts
If no one files a complaint against the estate or Executor, the estate will close, and the Executor’s authority will expire.
How Come Some Probates Never Close?
The most common reason an estate does not close for months or even years is that the probate has not been completed. Another common reason an estate never closes or gets seriously delayed is that the beneficiaries live in a different state or country. Tax returns can add time to the duration of probate, especially if the estate is very complex.
Some estates have assets that are very difficult to value or sell. For example, mineral rights, intellectual property (like patents), and rare collectibles or family heirlooms. Getting these types of assets valued and sold can take additional time, which will cause the probate to remain open.
There can be additional delays when closing probate if the estate includes a small business. This is because the business may need to be sold, or the interest in the company may need to be bought out by other business owners.
Some other issues that may cause a delay in probate are contested Wills and beneficiaries that don’t agree on anything. If beneficiaries don’t agree, then the Executor may need court approval for every step in the probate process. If there are beneficiaries contesting portions of the Will, or another document is produced that may be a Will, then the court process can last several months.
Other issues may be with the Executor. For example, suppose the Executor cannot keep up with their estate duties. In that case, it may cause continuous delays or cause other issues that will likely need to be resolved before the probate can move forward.
Typically, if an estate isn’t yet closed, it means that it is still in the process of being administered. There may be times when the probate process is complete, but the court hasn’t officially closed the probate. Other times, the Executor doesn’t know the steps to close the probate, or they don’t think it’s necessary. In cases like this, the estate may stay open for many years.
What Happens If You Find New Assets After Probate?
Even if the estate’s Executor is very detail-oriented, they can miss assets or other property that the decedent may have owned. Situations like this happen more often than you think. The decedent may have owned an asset that no one was aware existed. For example, they may have owned property or a bank account that no one in the family was aware of. Even if the Executor discovers assets after the probate estate has been closed, the assets must still be treated as the decedent’s property.
If you discover a new asset, the first step is to contact the court in which the probate was being handled and confirm if the probate was definitely closed or if it is still open. The probate court is typically in the county where the decedent lived before their passing. If the estate hasn’t been closed, then the Executor may continue as they were. However, if the estate has been closed, it may be a bit more complex. In some cases, the Executor may have to get a court order before distributing the assets to the heirs.
If the probate has been closed for some time, the Executor may also need a court order to reopen the bank account. On the other hand, if the probate hasn’t been closed for long, you may still be able to deposit funds into the bank account.
Can People Object To How The Probate Was Handled After Probate Is Closed?
Another issue the Executor should be aware of upon closing probate is that a beneficiary or creditor can file an objection with the court. Some possible reasons for objections are beneficiaries believing the Executor didn’t accurately perform their duties or that they may have acted in a fraudulent way. For example, if a beneficiary finds out that the Executor took money out of the estate account for personal use, the beneficiary may believe that the Executor is embezzling funds. Or, if a beneficiary believes that their distribution is being given to other heirs or that the decedent’s Will is invalid, they may also object.
If the beneficiary who objects to the probate has proof that the Executor did wrong, then the beneficiary can file a formal objection. If the estate is still open, then they likely have a better chance of resolving any issues and receiving any share of the estate they may be entitled to.
If you’re currently having a problem after probate has been closed or you’ve discovered a new asset, you should consult with an attorney to take the next steps. This part can become complicated, so it’s recommended that you hire an attorney to assist you with the process.
The probate process in Michigan can be complicated, long, and confusing.
At Rochester Law Center, our compassionate and dedicated Michigan Probate Lawyers are experienced in all matters of probate administration and serve every county in the state of Michigan.
We make probate fast, easy, and stress free by acting as your guide through the complicated paperwork and legal proceedings you’ll undoubtedly be facing throughout the Michigan probate process.
Our probate attorneys can help you quickly and easily navigate the process so that your loved one’s money and property can be distributed to their heirs in the manner in which they intended.
We understand the intricacies and nuances involved with probating an estate and can help you navigate every step of the way while keeping costs as low as possible.
Call us today at (248) 613-0007 for a free case evaluation.