What happens if an executor doesn’t pay out inheritances?

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Q. What happens if the executor never disperses the funds to the people in the will? Is there a certain amount of time in New Jersey to do so?
— Beneficiary

A. There is no specific time frame for administering an estate.

But state law says it’s the duty of an executor to settle and distribute the estate of a decedent pursuant to the terms of the will and applicable law “as expeditiously and efficiently as consistent with the best interest of the estate,” said Catherine Romania, an estate planning attorney with Witman Stadtmauer in Florham Park.

One year after the executor is appointed, you may ask the executor to provide an accounting of the estate, she said.

“If the executor fails to account, or if you find something objectionable in the accounting, or the executor is otherwise breaching fiduciary duties, you may ask the court for relief,” Romania said. “If the estate is subject to estate or inheritance tax, it is possible it is being audited and the executor is not making distributions until the audit is complete.”

So your first step would be to ask for an accounting or explanation as to why there has been no distribution, she said.

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This story was originally published on Oct. 28, 2020.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.