If you are the beneficiary of an Estate where a Decedent recently passed away, you will undoubtedly like to know when you will receive your bequest under the Decedent’s Last Will and Testament. What you should be aware of, however, is that there are a multitude of steps that must occur before distributions can be made under a Last Will and Testament.

The first necessary step is that the Decedent’s Will must be admitted to probate. This would be done by the named Executor in the Will, and thereafter, the Executor would be appointed by the Surrogate to serve as the Executor of the Estate. The next step would be for the Executor to marshal all available liquid assets of the Estate and deposit them into an Estate account, or simply discover the location of the assets if they exist in the form of stocks, bonds, or other investment vehicles. Once this has occurred, the Executor will typically prepare an informal accounting, which will be provided to the beneficiaries of the Estate.

If all continues smoothly, the Executor will then commission the preparation of tax returns to be filed with both the federal and state government, depending upon the value of the Estate. Once the returns are filed, it is often necessary for the Executor to receive tax waivers from the individual state(s), provided all appropriate taxes are paid by the Estate. Once this has occurred, it is almost time for distributions to be made.

Prior to distributions being made, the Executor will typically provide an informal accounting and will require any beneficiary of the Estate to sign a Release and Refunding Bond. This means that any bequest that a beneficiary receives from the Estate could potentially have to be paid back in full or in part to the Estate should additional tax liabilities be incurred by the Estate. Provided the Estate accounting is done properly and the appropriate taxes are paid, a refund by a beneficiary to the Estate is typically unlikely—however, is possible. Once all Release and Refunding Bonds are returned to the Executor of the Estate, distributions can be made.

As you can see, the process to receive a distribution from an Estate often takes a significant amount of time as many steps are necessary. The number and complexity of the steps that must be performed correlates directly to the value of the Estate, as well as the complexity and nature of the assets held by a decedent.

If you are a beneficiary of an Estate and you are experiencing difficulty receiving your bequest, you should consult with counsel experienced in Estates to determine whether the Executor is acting properly. At times, an Executor may not be acting properly or may be unnecessarily delaying the distribution of an Estate, which may entitle you to bring an action. The above information is merely a roadmap as to how distributions might be made, and should you require additional information it is suggested that you consult with experienced legal counsel.