Close an Estate

Close an Estate

The term “Closing an Estate” is not really accurate. The Estate never formally “closes.” For example, if 20 years from today, the Administrator or Executor finds a bank account that was previously unknown to him or her, those funds still belong to the Estate and the Administrator or Executor must (upon renewal of the Letters of Administration or Letters Testamentary, which expire after 6 months), distribute the funds to the beneficiaries. That is why the Estate never officially “closes.”

However, there are actions that an Administrator or Executor must take to limit his or her personal liability in the future. Unless one of the actions below is taken, an Administrator or Executor remains personally liable to the beneficiaries in the future. That means that (unless one of the below actions is taken), a beneficiary can bring an action against the Administrator or Executor in the future. Even if that action will be without merit, the Administrator or Executor must spend money to defend him or herself.


An informal closing is when all of the beneficiaries of an estate sign “releases” that release the Administrator/Executor from liability. Our office can prepare those releases and upon signing by all beneficiaries, file them in Surrogate’s court. This action is the easiest and most cost effective way to “close” an estate and release the Administrator/Executor from liability.


If one or more of the beneficiaries refuse or are unable to sign releases, the other option is to file a “Formal Accounting” with the Surrogate’s Court. Upon approval of the Accounting, the Administrator/Executor is released from liability. This is a longer and more expensive process, but it may be necessary if obtaining releases is not possible. Read here about a “Formal Accounting.”

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