topic | closing probate

If settling the estate involved formal, regular, informal, or summary probate, closing probate is the official end to this process. This can occur once all of the property has been sold or disbursed, debts (including taxes) have been paid, and heirs have received their inheritance.

An estate cannot be closed until the time limit for presenting claims has expired. States may impose specific time constraints on probate. For example, they may require that probate remains open for at least six months and be closed after one year. Check with the probate court or an estate attorney if you feel you cannot work within these limits.

Challenges may arise throughout the probate process, even up to the very end requiring separate litigation.  Despite best efforts, surprises often occur. Conflicts may be complex, involving multiple parties. Challenges may include:

  • validity of the Will
  • identity of beneficiaries
  • paternity issues
  • common law or presumed spouse claims
  • creditor’s claims
  • disputes regarding payments to beneficiaries
  • objections to the closing or distribution of the estate
  • frozen sperm
  • a marriage or child born after the Will is executed

In these examples, involving an estate attorney may be the best course of action. Whether these challenges, or even an item as straight forward as a court appointed time limit cannot be met, filing an extension is usually an option.

If the estate was deemed a small estate and an affidavit was obtained, it is not necessary to “close probate”. In these cases, a court probate was never opened. This type of estate may be closed informally.