Following the filing of the Inventory and Appraisement, the executor of a testate estate can begin to transfer and/or sell the property belonging to the estate as dictated under the will.  There is no requirement to file a yearly Inventory, Appraisement, and List of Claims with the court, as required when probating an intestate estate.  Additionally, if the executor is named “independent” under the will, the executor can manage, transfer, and sell property without the approval of the court.  The executor can also settle claims against the estate without presenting them to the court for approval.  This is not the case when probating an intestate estate.  Once the claims have been paid and the property has been distributed as required under the will, the executor must file a Notice of Closing the Estate verified by an affidavit.  The Notice must state that all debts known have been paid or have been paid to the extent permissible by the assets of the estate, that all remaining assets have been distributed, and the names and addresses of said distributes.  Finally, along with the Notice, the executor must show proof of delivery of the Notice to all distributes who received property of the estate.  Once this Notice is filed with the court and accepted, after thirty days, the estate is considered closed.  Keep in mind, the process of transferring, liquidating, and managing the estate can be done by the executor independently of any reporting to the court.  Additionally, there is no requirement that the court approve any of the action taken.  The executor is only bound by the terms of the will and must comply therewith but can take the actions required by the will independent of the court.

At this point, the administrator of the intestate estate must begin to determine the assets of the estate.  During this process, each year, the court requires an updated yearly Inventory, Appraisement, and List of Claims against the estate as well as a renewal of the bond each year.  Each claim against the estate must be issued to the administrator and the administrator’s attorney and must be accompanied by sufficient evidence to legitimize the claim.  Within 30 days of receiving a notice of claim, the administrator must decide whether to accept the claim or reject it.  Then, the court must decide whether the claim is accepted and can be paid.  Furthermore, if the administrator wishes to sell any property of the estate including: real property, automobiles, personal property, stocks, bonds, etc., the administrator must issue a report of sale to the court.  Before the property can be sold and title can be cleared, the court must approve the report of sale.  This can be done retroactively but it is advised that this be done prior to sale to avoid possible disputes between the buyer when the court does not approve the sale.

Finally, once all claims have been paid and the assets of the estate have been transferred, liquidated, etc., the Administrator must file a Verified Account for Final Settlement of the estate evidencing the payment of claims and the final status of the estate.  If the Administrator files this Verified Accounting for Final Settlement, serves notice of this Verified Accounting for Final Settlement on the proper parties, and the Court approves the Accounting and all associated vouchers and has an opportunity to hear any possible objections, the Court may discharge the personal representative of the estate and determine the estate to be fully administered.

It is clear from the description of administrating a testate and an intestate estate that the additional reporting and approval required of a dependent administrator handling an intestate estate will increase the cost and resources required to legally probate and close the estate.  In comparison, a testate estate can be performed by an executor at their discretion and once the will is satisfied and all beneficiaries under the will have received their distributions, the estate can be closed with minimal legal fees and expenses. 

Hopefully this brief description of the general method and steps utilized in probating both a testate and intestate estate have shed some light on the benefits of executing a will.  If you have any questions regarding probating an estate or if you would like to inquire about having The Spencer Law Firm draft your will or the will of a loved one, please contact us at your earlies convenience.