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How to Distribute the Residue of a Decedent’s Estate

As the estate executor, you must distribute the estate’s residue, or the leftover assets, after you have paid all debts, administration expenses, and bequests and devises from the decedent’s estate.

Your decedent might have provided for the disposition of the estate’s residue in the will. Otherwise, the state’s intestacy laws provide for the manner of distribution. If the will leaves the residue to a revocable trust, it pours over into that trust, and you transfer the assets into the trustee or trustees’ names in whatever manner they direct.

To fulfill a bequest of a specific amount, write a check on the estate’s checking account. You may pay the bequest after the period for filing of claims.

There are two main ways to distribute the rest of the residue:

  • Dividing up the residue by percentage or fractional share: If the residue is to go to more than one person or entity, the will may provide that it be divided by percentage or fractional share of the total assets. Each will have the same effect.

  • Dividing by per capita or per stirpes: If the residue is to be divided per capita, each person gets an equal share, no matter what the relationship to the decedent. If the residue is to be divided per stirpes or by right of representation, you divide it equally at each generational level, with any issue of a deceased person to take his or her share.

Although you can make partial distributions of residuary, such partial distribution is by no means required. However, in order to completely close the estate, you should make final distributions of residuary shares when you’ve settled all the affairs of the estate, including receiving the estate and inheritance tax closing letters, and prepared the final account.

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