Estate Planning 101

How Long Does an Executor Have to Settle an Estate in Mississippi

In this article, we'll look at how long an Executor has to settle an estate in Mississippi. We'll look at the milestones and due dates, as well as factors that impact timelines and how to know when an estate is officially 'settled'.)
October 6, 2023

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Settling an estate, a process also known as probate, involves a series of steps that an executor must take following a person's death. These steps include validating the deceased's will, compiling an inventory of their assets, paying off any outstanding debts and taxes, and finally, distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as stipulated in the will. In Mississippi, as in any other state, this process can be complex and time-consuming. Many individuals often wonder how long an executor has to settle an estate in Mississippi. The timeline can vary considerably, usually ranging from several months to over a year, depending on factors such as the size and complexity of the estate, the clarity of the will, and whether or not the probate process is contested.

The Estate Settlement Timeline:

The process of settling an estate in Mississippi involves several stages, each with its own general timeline. Let's break down each of these stages to provide a clearer understanding of the overall process:

  1. Submitting the Will: In Mississippi, the executor, or personal representative, is required to submit the will to probate court as soon as reasonably possible after the death of the testator (the person who wrote the will). Although Mississippi law does not specify an exact timeframe for this, it is generally advisable to do so within a month to prevent unnecessary delays in the probate process.
  2. Inventorying the Estate: After the will has been submitted, the executor must compile a comprehensive inventory of the deceased's assets. This includes real estate, personal belongings, bank accounts, investments, and other assets of value. Depending on the size and complexity of the estate, this process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. In Mississippi, the executor typically has 90 days from the date of their appointment to submit this inventory to the court.
  3. Communicating with Creditors: Once the estate has been inventoried, the executor must then notify all known creditors of the deceased's passing. In Mississippi, creditors are given 90 days from the date of their notification to make claims against the estate for any debts owed.
  4. Paying Debts and Taxes: After notifying the creditors, the executor is then tasked with paying off any valid claims from the estate's assets. This also includes settling any final income taxes or estate taxes due. Depending on the number of claims and the state of the deceased's financial affairs, this step can take a few months to over a year.
  5. Distributing the Remaining Assets: The final step in the estate settlement process is to distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as specified in the will. This can only be done after all debts and taxes have been settled. If there are no disputes among the beneficiaries, this step can be completed relatively quickly, often within a few weeks.

Keep in mind that these timelines are average estimates and can vary greatly based on individual circumstances. For instance, if a will is contested, the probate process can be delayed by months or even years. Similarly, if the estate is particularly large or complex, it may take longer to inventory and distribute the assets. While the duties of an executor require them to settle the estate as efficiently as possible, the process often requires a significant amount of patience and diligence.

How Do You Know When an Estate is Settled:

An estate is considered settled when the executor has completed a series of tasks: submitting the will to probate court, inventorying the estate, notifying and paying creditors, settling any taxes owed, and distributing the remaining assets according to the will. Beneficiaries should receive a final accounting from the executor, which is a document detailing all of the financial transactions made on behalf of the estate.

In Mississippi, once this final accounting has been reviewed and approved by the probate court, the executor can file a “petition for discharge”, which officially releases them from their duties. Upon approval of this petition, the estate is officially considered settled. This final confirmation ensures beneficiaries that the estate settlement process has been completed.

What to Do If You Think The Executor Is Taking Too Long:

While settling an estate can indeed be a lengthy process, there may be instances when an executor does not fulfill their duties in a timely or efficient manner. If you, as a beneficiary, suspect this to be the case, there are steps you can take. Start by communicating your concerns with the executor – they may be able to provide a reasonable explanation for any delays. If this doesn't resolve the issue, you are within your rights to request an accounting of the estate - a report detailing the financial actions taken by the executor on behalf of the estate.

If you're still unsatisfied after these steps, Mississippi law permits beneficiaries to petition the probate court for the removal and replacement of an executor who is not adequately performing their duties. This should be considered a last resort, as it can complicate and delay the estate settlement process. Before taking this action, it's recommended to consult with an estate planning attorney.