How to Obtain Probate Court Approval of an Estate’s Accounts
Before you can close a decedent’s estate, you need to have your accounts allowed (approved) by the probate court. Check with your local probate court for the exact procedure for allowance of accounts. There are some common requirements, including filing fees, petitions for allowance, delivery of a citation, appointment of a guardian ad litem, filing of a military affidavit, and more.
Time for filing: Although some jurisdictions allow you to file accounts that cover more than one year, others require you to file an account annually with the court, whether or not you seek its allowance by the court.
Filing fees: Most states have a filing fee that must accompany the filing of the account with the probate court. In order to file the account, you need to make that sure you pay these fees.
Petition for allowance: Prepare and file a petition for allowance of the account, and also prepare a proposed order allowing the account. In the petition, you ask that the account(s) in question be allowed, your actions as executor be approved, and anything else pertinent to the particular account, such as your executor’s fee and distribution of the residuary estate, be allowed.
Receipts of specific and residuary beneficiaries: With the accounting, file all the receipts from the specific and residuary beneficiaries with the court.
Citation: During the process of closing the estate, you need to deliver a citation to the interested parties. The citation includes a return date for the interested parties to respond to it if they so choose. The order of notice accompanying the citation indicates how far in advance of the return date you must send a copy of the citation to the interested parties.
You obtain the order of notice from the probate court and pay a small fee. You must carefully determine the interested parties who must receive the citation. Check with your local probate court to confirm that you’ve correctly identified them.
Check to see whether your state requires a specific type of mail for the citation. In Massachusetts, for example, the statute requires you to send the citation by registered mail, which has been further defined to include certified mail. You may also be required to publish the citation in a local newspaper acceptable to the probate court.
Guardian ad litem: A guardian ad litem must be appointed under certain circumstances to represent the interests of persons not yet born or ascertained (such as when the residuary beneficiary is a trust under the will for the decedent’s descendants, and the executor is also the trustee), or legally incompetent (such as a minor with no legal guardian).
Military affadavit: In some states, before you can close the estate, you need to file a military affidavit stating whether any beneficiary is in the military service. You must file it whether or not a beneficiary is in the military.
Entry of judgment allowing account: If all is in order when the account is filed and no one objects to its allowance, the court may enter a judgment allowing the account no earlier than the day after the return day. Some courts prepare the judgment, and some require that you prepare a proposed judgment for the court.
Surety: When the accounts have been allowed, notify the surety (the company guaranteeing the bond). The surety will then stop billing the estate for its services.