Don’t Make These Missteps When Attempting to Close a Probate Estate

When someone passes away leaving behind assets that are part of a probate administration, a personal representative is appointed to handle the settling of his or her affairs. At the completion of the probate administration process, the personal representative must file certain documents with the probate court in order to finish the process. The closing of a probate estate is often a welcome stage, when beneficiaries receive their inheritance and personal representatives are relieved of their duties and obligations. It is important, however, to avoid making mistakes that could lead to issues during this endpoint of the probate process.

Common Errors During the Closing of an Estate

In order to close the probate administration, the personal representative must file a final account, a report, and a petition for final distribution with the court. Awareness of some of the common errors that take place during the filing of these forms can help to minimize the chances of unintended delays in the closing process. The following are 15 of the most common errors that take place during the closing of an estate:

  1. Failing to provide the notices that are required by the law.
  2. Failing to put the account in its proper form.
  3. Failing to properly describe the character of the assets that are on-hand for distribution. For example, assets should be listed as being either separate, community, or quasi-community property.
  4. Failing to list and describe all of the assets that are on-hand for distribution. This list must exist either in the body of the petition or in an incorporated schedule or attachment. This must be done regardless of whether the account has been waived.
  5. Failing to specifically state the manner in which the estate is to be distributed.
  6. Failing to describe any and all creditors’ claims activity and list the entire disposition of all of these claims.
  7. Failing to itemize all of a creditor’s claim if the estate was insolvent.
  8. Failing to include in the account the calculation of the compensation for the personal representative and the attorney. This must be done regardless of whether the account is waived.
  9. Failing to incorporate the terms of the trust in the order of distribution when distribution is being made to a testamentary trust.
  10. Failing to obtain a Certificate of Franchise Tax Board Clearance if the estate value exceeds $1,000,0000 and assets of at least $250,000 are being distributed to nonresidents.
  11. Failing to allege whether the representative was acting under the Independent Administration of Estates Act. If so, failing to state the transactions that were undertaken pursuant to the Act.
  12. Failing to set forth the disposition of the assets if one of the beneficiaries passes away before the estate assets are distributed.
  13. Failing to follow all of the appropriate court rules when distributions are to be made to minors.
  14. Failing to request that the personal representative be allowed to keep a closing reserve fund for unpaid or contingent tax liabilities, creditors’ claims, or closing costs.
  15. Failing to submit a proposed Judgment of Final Distribution to the court.

When it comes to all aspects of the administration of a probate estate, the devil is in the details. Every time a mistake is made, it costs the estate valuable time and resources. Fortunately, personal representatives do not have to be experts in this field. Instead, they need to surround themselves with a solid team of people, including an experienced attorney. We encourage you to check out the many positive reviews from our former clients on our client testimonials page today for more information about our services.

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Scott Grossman

Scott Grossman


The Grossman Law Firm, APC · 525 B Street, Suite 1500, San Diego, CA 92101 · (951) 523-8307