Legal Guide

Commonly Asked Questions About Estate Administration

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It’s sometimes not until someone close to you passes away that you learn more about estate administration, wills, beneficiaries, and probate. It can be a daunting process and can require a great deal of research. If you’re in the process of finding an estate planning and probate lawyer and want to be well-informed, consider asking these questions: 

Can a Personal Representative Be a Beneficiary? 

Many people going through the estate administration or creation process ask, ‘can a personal representative be a beneficiary?’ They often ask this question because they’re worried about a potential conflict. For example, you may want a beneficiary in your will but also need them to be the personal representative or executive. You may not be sure if they can do both. Alternatively, you might be going through estate administration and have found yourself as both the executor and beneficiary.

It’s only natural to ask whether a personal representative can be a beneficiary. It can depend on where you live, but in most cases, yes. A personal representative can be a beneficiary in many states if they follow specific rules. For example, they must act in the best interests of the estate and all beneficiaries. 

How Long Does it Take to Settle an Estate in the US? 

Ask any experienced attorney, and they’ll tell you that there is no single answer for how long it takes to settle an estate in the United States. Simple estates with straightforward or no assets can take as little as six months. 

However, estates with complex assets, hard-to-value assets, or many assets can take even longer. It’s not uncommon for estates to still be worked on even years later. Sometimes, estates aren’t closed until the IRS receives an estate tax return

How Do Beneficiaries Receive Their Money? 

When asset values have been determined, and all creditors and taxes have been paid, beneficiaries are in the running to receive what is left over minus probate fees. The assets in an estate are distributed according to the will. If there isn’t a will, the beneficiaries will be chosen by following your state’s succession laws. The benefactor's bank account will be closed once the bank accounts are cleared and show a zero balance. 

How Long Does the Executor Have to Pay Beneficiaries? 

If you’re the beneficiary of a will, it’s only natural to question how long it will be until you receive payment from an estate. That timeframe can depend on many things, including where you live. For example, most estates take up to around nine months to go through the probate process. If you live in Virginia, beneficiaries must receive payment within a year or interest can accrue, payable by the estate’s executor. 

If you live in Florida, estates must be open for three months so creditors can come forward. Most estates settle within six months. There is no deadline for beneficiary payments in New Jersey. However, personal property should be distributed as soon as practical, and specific bequests should be distributed within a year if possible. 

Estate administration can be complicated, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed when you’ve never experienced it before. However, by asking a trusted lawyer these questions above and others, you may be well-informed enough to navigate each step of the estate administration process confidently. 

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