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When Can an Executor Start Paying the Heirs of an Estate?

I have settled my mother’s estate and sent the final accounting paperwork to my three siblings. Two have signed off on the bond paperwork but my one brother is nitpicking the statements, asking for invoices for the lawyer, the CPA, etc. Can I send the other two their share of the inheritance or do I need to wait until everyone signs off?

executor looking at clipboard of to doAn estate executor or executrix is the person who has been named to administer the estate of a deceased person.  In some states, like South Dakota, the executor is called the Personal Representative.  The Personal Representative is named to administer the estate of someone who passed away.  It is important that the executor or Personal Representative probate the estate properly and in a timely manner.

The executor or personal representative is appointed by the testator of the will (the person who makes the will) or by a court under probate, when there was no prior appointment (and the individual dies intestate).

As the executor or personal representative, he or she may take a chance in distributing the estate or some of the estate before everyone has approved a final accounting and signed a Refunding Bond and Release.

This means that the heirs may accept their distribution and release the executor from any claims concerning his or her administration of the estate.’s recent article entitled “Can I distribute inheritances now or do I have to wait?” says that if one of the beneficiaries doesn’t accept the executor’s form of accounting and his or her purported share, the executor will need to bring an action in court seeking its approval of a formal accounting and release as executor.

This process can add a lot of expenses to the probate and, if there is no misfeasance by the executor found by the court, the expenses are usually paid for from estate funds. This reduces the total pay-out to heirs. As a result, it reduces all the beneficiaries’ distributive shares.

An executor has a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the estate, which means he or she must manage the estate as if it were their own and manage the assets prudently. Thus, an executor can’t do anything that intentionally harms the interests of the beneficiaries.

If the executor decides to pay some beneficiaries before all of the named beneficiaries agree to the distributions, he or she may not have the funds to bring the formal accounting action in court.

It’s usually a best practice to wait until everyone approves the accounting and provides the necessary paperwork, before making any distributions to any heirs.

If you have questions about probate or estate administration, give Legacy Law Firm, P.C. a call at (605) 275-5665. (May 8, 2020) “Can I distribute inheritances now or do I have to wait?”



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