How Long Does Estate Administration Take?

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Estate Administration
KS and MO Attorney Kyle E Krull

Written by Kyle Krull

Attorney & Counsellor at Law Kyle Krull is president of the Law Offices of Kyle E. Krull, P.A., an Estate Planning Law Firm located in Overland Park, KS. Estate Planning Attorney Kyle Krull has provided continuing education instruction to attorneys, accountants, and financial professionals at local, state, and national programs.

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POSTED ON: July 2, 2024

Understanding estate administration makes it easier to honor the wishes of your deceased loved one.

Estate administration involves settling the affairs of the decedent.

The death of a loved one is challenging in so many ways.

Grief over the loss can feel overwhelming.

While mourning, there are pressing tasks and responsibilities associated with the passing of a loved one.

One such responsibility is estate administration.

However, it requires meticulous attention to so many major and minute details that I refer to it as "estate administrivia"!

Estate Administration is can be a long process.

No step of estate administration can be neglected.

What Is Estate Administration?

Estate administration is the process of mustering, managing, and eventually distributing the assets of a decedent.

If the decedent created an estate plan, the administration process will likely involve executing the last will and testament.

If the decedent died without an estate plan, state law will govern who inherits from the estate.

Although last wills always require involvement with the probate courts, dying without an estate plan will make the proceeding longer and more complex.

How Long Does the Probate Process Take?

The length of probate varies depending on a variety of factors.

The average length of time for completion is nine to 24 months.

According to a SmartAsset article, the efficiency of the executor and the complexity of the estate will both affect the probate timeline.

What are the Steps Involved in Estate Administration?

Estate administration typically requires six steps during probate proceedings.

What are these?

Filing a Petition for Probate (Months 1-4). 

To begin estate administration, the executor must file a petition for probate with the court.

This filing will include the last will and the death certificate of the decedent.

The executor must send notice of probate to known creditors and interested parties and publish it in the legal notice of the local newspaper for general creditors.

For probate to move forward without challenge, beneficiaries must agree to the terms of the last will.

Notifying Creditors (Months 3-6). 

The executor must take formal action to notify creditors of the death of the decedent.

This step is necessary for identifying all claims and debts against the estate.

Paying Debts and Fees (Months 6-12).

Before the assets can be distributed to heirs, the estate must pay all outstanding taxes, debts, and probate fees.

The process may take longer if there are numerous creditors and disputed claims.

Inventorying and Appraising Assets (Months 6-12).

The executor is responsible for creating a complete inventory and appraisal of estate assets.

Such assets include bank accounts, investments, real estate, and personal property.

If the decedent was organized, this step can take less time.

Distributing Assets (Months 9-18). 

Once taxes and debts have been paid, the last will or intestacy laws will guide the transfer of remaining assets to heirs.

Closing the Estate (Months 9-24). 

After completing all distributions and responsibilities for the estate, the executor can file a final account with the court.

When this is completed, the probate court will issue a final order to close the estate officially.

How to Ensure a Smooth Administration Process

If you are responsible for serving as the estate executor, you can take action to make the process more efficient.

Stay Organized. 

Maintain detailed records of communication and transactions.

Communicate Clearly. 

Keep beneficiaries and other interested parties regularly updated on the status of the estate administration.

In my experience, most legal contests over last wills are sparked by the executor's "failure to communicate" with the decedent's family members while administering the estate.

Pro tip: When you are a fiduciary, communicate early and often with all interested stakeholders to avoid the spark of suspicion fanning into a prairie fire of litigation.

Seek Professional Help.

You may benefit from hiring an estate attorney if you are not a professional executor.

These professionals have experience in navigating the complexities of estate administration.

What are Key Takeaways Regarding Estate Administration?

Administering an estate can take an average of nine to 24 months.

Complex estate and legal challenges can prolong the process.

Executors must take specific actions such as filing probate, notifying creditors, paying debts, inventorying and appraising assets, distributing remaining assets, and closing the estate.

If the process is overwhelming, it can be helpful to seek the advice of an estate attorney who provides estate and trust administration services.

We do not provide these services but refer to trusted colleagues who do.

Our focus is on the "estate planning" aspect of the process on the front end to help ensure a smooth and efficient administration on the back end.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. You should contact an attorney for advice concerning any particular issue or problem. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between Harvest Law KC and the reader.

Reference: SmartAsset (Jul. 31, 2023) "How Long Does an Executor Have to Distribute a Will?"

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