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Is Reopening An Estate That Has Already Settled Worth The Trouble?

OpenLetter

Even uncomplicated probate cases can be stressful when the person for whose estate you were acting as a personal representative settles and the beneficiaries get their inheritance.  As long as the estate is open, everyone blames you when creditors surface and claim debts that, once paid, reduce the amount left for you and your relatives to inherit.  If one family member challenges the will, then you as a personal representative get caught in the middle of a family feud that you managed to avoid as long as the decedent was alive.  Once the estate settles, you feel a great sense of relief that you have completed the task with which your deceased family member entrusted you.  Most of the time, that feeling of relief is permanent, and you never have to revisit an estate that has already settled.  In some situations, though, there is a justifiable reason to reopen the estate in order to redistribute the assets in a more legally correct way.  If you have questions about reopening an estate or refusing to reopen one, contact an Orange County probate lawyer.

Probate Deadlines Exist for a Reason

During probate, your duty as a personal representative of the estate is to contact all the people listed in the will, as well as all other “interested persons,” those who are not named in the will, but, because they are close family members of the decedent, may feel entitled to a share of the estate and wish to file a claim in probate.  For example, if the decedent did not leave any money to his wife in the will, she may claim an elective share; your duty is to notify her that probate has begun, and now is the time to file her claim.  Likewise, you must contact known creditors, defined as those who have recently sent bills to the decedent’s address and to whom the decedent’s bank account was making recurring payments at the time of the decedent’s death.  You must also publish notices in the newspaper so that unknown creditors and heirs know when and where to file claims from the estate.

If the unknown creditors and long-lost relatives do not get back to you until after the estate settles, you can say, “tough luck.”  Likewise, if someone alleges, after the estate settles, that the will was signed under undue influence, the appropriate response is “tough luck.”  They should have raised their objection while the estate was open.

Situations That Require the Court to Reopen the Probate Case

The court will require you to reopen the estate if the decedent was previously thought to have died intestate, but a valid will was discovered after it settled.  Likewise, if you try to contact the known heirs, and you locate one of them after the estate has settled, you must reopen the estate.

Contact Us Today for Help

An Orlando probate lawyer can help you reopen an estate that has settled or respond to someone who unjustifiably wants to reopen the estate.  Contact Gierach and Gierach, P.A. for help with your case.

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