Estates that are not required to file a federal estate tax return and are not involved in litigation can usually be closed between six and nine months. For estates that are required to file a federal estate tax return, the estate must remain open for two years. However, some distributions may be made to the heirs and beneficiaries soon after the estate is opened. If no probate is required,what must be done to settle the estate? Estate settlement is the process by which a decedent’s total estate, which includes both probate and non-probate assets, is settled. Even if an estate does not require a probate administration,all estates must be settled. There are still documents to be filed, debts and taxes to be paid and assets to be distributed. Estate settlement involves the following steps:

  1. Collection of decedent’s assets;
  2. Payment of debts and claims against the estate;
  3. Payment of estate taxes, if any;
  4. Determination of heirs if the decedent died without a will;
  5. Filing certain documents required under state law, in some cases to clear title to real property owned by the deceased; and,
  6. Distribution of the remainder of the estate of those entitled to it.

 The personal representative has tobe approved by the court and those who receive property from the estate must be approved by the court. If the personal representative acts improperly, he or she may be held liable for any resulting damages and his or her appointment maybe terminated by the court. Florida law requires that virtually all estates have a probate attorney or probate law firm assist with the estate administration. The Walser Law Firm is available to help with all probate and estate matters to settle an estate. Please feel free to contact a Boca Raton probate attorney at our firm to learn how we can help you.