Sunday, January 13, 2008

How to Know When to Reopen an Estate


Probate law is complex and the decision whether to reopen a closed estate may be confusing for the average person. Follow these guidelines before making your choice.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging



Step One

Investigate whether there are any new assets discovered after the case was closed. New assets that may necessitate the reopening of an estate include stocks, bonds, real estate holdings or cash.

Step Two

Find out if there is a will. The existence of a will, if the estate was administered as if the individual had died without a will, or a will dated later than the will that was probated, can present good cause for reopening an estate.

Step Three

Determine whether the estate was closed without administration being complete. Incomplete administration includes property not deeded to the heirs or any other necessary act remaining unperformed by the personal representative.

Step Four

Confirm that you have legal standing to reopen the estate. Generally, only "interested persons" or the prior personal representative can apply to reopen an estate.

Step Five

Prepare an Application, or Petition to Reopen the Estate. Request that the former personal representative or another party having priority be appointed as personal representative. Upon a showing of good cause, the court will appoint a personal representative to administer the reopened estate.

Step Six

Familiarize yourself with the duties of a personal representative in an estate that has been reopened. These duties include determining if there is a will that was not offered for probate in the previous administration, assessing the worth of the newly discovered assets, determining whether there are any unpaid taxes and distributing the assets to the heirs in accordance with the will or the laws of interstate succession.

Tips & Warnings

  • Speak with an attorney if you have questions regarding whether good cause exists to reopen an estate.
  • Visit the website of your judicial district for local forms, pamphlets and any additional information specific to how to reopen a closed estate in your jurisdiction.
  • If the estate was closed while in supervised administration, the court may require a petition in a formal proceeding before reopening.

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