How long to settle an estate?
October 14, 2020 4:55 PM   Subscribe

Not asking how long probate should take, rather, how long does the executor/lawyer have to settle an estate?

A relative passed away over 5 months ago, the estate is handled by a lawyer she chose and consists of a single home of some value, there are multiple heirs sharing this inheritance. So far the lawyer has been less than communicative and has not put the house on the market although apparently has been showing it himself to a few private buyers. How long should one expect this process to take? Is it reasonable for the house not to go on the open market?
posted by InkaLomax to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You haven't given enough information to get any kind of answer to your question.

Are you in the US, and if so, in which state? Is there a will, or is the property held by a living trust, and in either case, have you read the document? How is it that the only asset of the estate is the home? Isn't there at least a checking account? No other investments?

I've never heard of any specific time requirement for the closing of an estate. It often takes a couple of years or so.

Generally speaking, an executor is allowed to handle things in their own reasonable way without harassment by the heirs, and if the heirs have a valid problem with the executor, they can take steps to have the executor replaced. In your case, the heirs could get together and retain their own lawyer to educate them a little, and if necessary, take action against the executor.

I can recommend The Executor's Guide, from Nolo, as a pretty good basic resource on this topic.
posted by JimN2TAW at 7:17 PM on October 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

If the lawyer has interested parties in the house and shows it on their own, it may be to your benefit if they are avoiding a 5% commission. On the other hand, I think the lawyer is exposing themselves to liability if they sell the house privately and it appears to be below the market value less the commission.

Why not just call the lawyer and ask what the time frame is for settling the estate as you are trying to make your own plans?
posted by AugustWest at 9:03 PM on October 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

The estate of a person I know who passed away in 2015 is still not resolved. There were some complexities related to the deceased person's business assets, but even the basic personal assets (house, jewelry, etc) took over a year to settle.
posted by basalganglia at 1:11 AM on October 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

An estate that I am an interested party in has now passed the three year mark. The house was not dealt with for over a year. I'm sorry this is dragging out for you.. prepare yourself for a long haul, and be pleasantly surprised if it wraps up sooner than anticipated.
posted by girlalex at 2:53 AM on October 15, 2020

We're at the edge of finalizing my mom's estate -- it's been 10 months. This was in OH, and there were expectations (from the court) that inventory had to be assessed, including the house, in order to determine value of those assets. Have you seen any of that paperwork? In OH it's filed in the court.
posted by correcaminos at 3:33 AM on October 15, 2020

Five months is not a very long time at all when you're talking about a house. The items in the house need to be identified, potentially stored, distributed according to the will, it needs to be cleaned, etc. But before that even happens, the executor has to be notified of the death, locate the will, order and receive death certificates, etc. The fact of the matter is that some lawyers are very efficient and others are not. They should be answering your questions if you're supposed to be inheriting from the estate, though. I am always suspicious of these "pocket listings". You do save the real estate cartel commission, but at the cost of many fewer buyers being aware of the house. But it's not necessarily shady as long as they are getting reasonable market value.
posted by wnissen at 9:49 AM on October 15, 2020

Depending on where you live, there is also the reality that, in northern states, homes sell better in the spring and summer, and sales slow down in the winter months.
posted by yclipse at 3:21 PM on October 15, 2020

I don't know where you are, and IANAL, but as far as I know there's no mandated time limit on settling an estate; it stays open till everything's taken care of. There's a limit to the time creditors have to claim a debt against the estate, which is the probate side of things, but not for closing the estate itself.

It's entirely possible that the lawyer isn't communicating because they would need to charge the estate for each communication, and are trying not to cost more than they absolutely have to. I was the executor for an estate and needed to hire a lawyer, and during the nine years (nine. years.) the estate was open, there were entire years where I just had to cross my fingers that the lawyer was still working on things, because he almost never responded to anything I sent him. (He was totally working on things! But every minute of his time was billable, and he's an honest man who billed me as little as he could.)

A private sale of the home at full market value would be fantastic, and is totally worth exploring if he has some leads in that direction.
posted by current resident at 7:03 PM on October 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

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