What’s the Time Limit for an Executor to Pay Out Inheritances?

February 22nd, 2024

how long does the executor have to pay the beneficiaries

Losing someone close to your heart is hard enough. Waiting months with no update on your inheritance only sharpens the pain.

You were counting on those assets. Shouldn’t they be distributed by now?

As attorneys, one of the most common questions we get is — how long until beneficiaries receive their inheritance? The answer might surprise you.

The duties of an executor are to settle debts, file taxes, and distribute assets, which can take many months, depending on the estate’s complexity. 

Here’s what beneficiaries should know about the timeline executors must follow.

Colorado Estate Settlement Timeline

The Colorado probate process involves administering the assets of a deceased person, called the decedent. There are a few different ways this can be handled, depending on the specifics of the estate.

If the total value of the probate assets is less than $80,000 and there is no real estate, an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property can be used. The person handling the estate, called the affiant, presents the affidavit to institutions or individuals holding the decedent’s assets and collects them. The affiant distributes the assets according to the decedent’s will or Colorado’s intestacy laws if there is no will. This affidavit must be signed before a notary public.

For estates with more than $80,000 in probate assets or that contain real estate, either an informal or formal probate procedure must be opened through the courts. The court appoints a personal representative who takes over the decedent’s affairs, pays any legitimate claims against the estate, and eventually distributes the remaining assets. The personal representative must notify any potential creditors by publishing a notice or contacting them directly.

During the creditor period, the personal representative will value assets and consolidate and/or liquidate them if needed. Once this period expires, the personal representative can distribute assets according to the will or intestacy laws. The probate case can be closed once all assets are transferred, claims are settled, and any taxes are paid. The personal representative is considered a fiduciary responsible for properly handling the decedent’s estate throughout the process.

How Long Does Probate Take?

The probate process in Colorado takes an average of 9 to 24 months to be fully completed. The average timeline is around 12 months, though some probate cases can be completed in 6 months and others extend to 2 years or much longer, depending on the complexity of the estate and whether there’s any fighting. 

This process cannot be finalized until all assets are collected, claims and taxes paid, and the remaining assets fully distributed. Most executors retain legal counsel to help keep the probate process on track, ensure it’s done properly, and meet required deadlines.

Why Do Some Estates Take Longer Than Others to Settle?

Not all estates are created equal when it comes to timeline challenges. Some move smoothly to closure within a year. Others can drag on for multiple years, plagued by delays.

Here are the main variables that dictate how promptly an executor can pay out your inheritance:

Size of the Estate

More assets mean more administrative work. A complex multi-million dollar estate with real estate, investments, and valuable personal property will clearly take longer to settle than a modest estate with just a house and bank accounts.

There are more assets to identify, manage, value, and liquidate. A higher value also likely means estate taxes come into play, which entails filing returns and paying Uncle Sam before paying beneficiaries.

Types of Assets

Some assets are harder to monetize than others. Distributing the proceeds from bank accounts can happen immediately once debts are settled. However, tangible property and investments may need to be sold to create an inheritable cash pool.

Real estate can take months just to list, market properly, and close a sale. Securing accurate appraisals on valuables like jewelry, art, or collectibles slows things down. Business interests are some of the most complex in a probate estate.

Debts and Claims Against the Estate

Valid creditors must be paid before you see a dime. The executor must notify creditors of the death and settle verified debts. This means liquidating assets to free up cash, stretching out the timeline.

Sometimes, creditors make false or inflated claims. The executor must thoroughly vet each one before paying – another slowdown. And if a claim dispute ends up in court, add years to the wait.

Location of Assets

Out-of-state assets complicate matters. If the deceased owned property like real estate or vehicles located in multiple states, ancillary probate proceedings may be needed to transfer ownership locally before the executor can sell or distribute that asset. This can more than double the timeline in some cases.

Family Disputes

Nothing gums up the works like beneficiary conflicts. Bitter tensions between heirs or custody battles over minors slow the works to a crawl. Every step becomes a painful negotiation. If disputes end up in litigation, years can pass before getting a consensus to move forward, meaning the lawyers get paid while the beneficiaries continue waiting.

Performance of Executor

An unskilled executor is the kiss of death for efficient estate settlement. Lack of experience administering estates leads to mistakes that compound delays. Not knowing deadlines or how to solve problems causes frustrating bottlenecks. An executor in over their head can increase the timeline five-fold.

As you can see, in complex scenarios with multiple complicating factors, the payout timeline to beneficiaries can easily exceed two years. Patience runs thin when your share seems constantly out of reach.

What to Do When You Believe the Executor Is Dragging Out Probate

Settling an estate can naturally take over a year in many cases. However, beneficiaries may sometimes feel the executor is intentionally delaying distributing assets. 

If you have these concerns as a beneficiary, you have options under Colorado law:

  1. Communicate with the executor about your concerns. Ask them to explain the timeline and reasons for any hold-ups. Often, a reasonable discussion can resolve misgivings.
  2. If talking it through does not work, request a formal accounting of all financial actions the executor has taken. Reviewing this estate summary may shed light on legitimate reasons for delays.
  3. If communication and transparency fail, Colorado grants beneficiaries the right to petition the probate court to remove an executor who is not properly performing their duties in a timely manner. 

Removing the executor is a serious step that can further extend the process, so first, make every effort to work with the executor. Consulting a probate attorney is wise before attempting to replace an executor. With patience and open dialogue, most executor concerns can be resolved short of court intervention. 

Get the Closure You’ve Been Waiting for With Hammond Law Group

Probate is a complex balancing act for executors and beneficiaries alike. One small misstep can have cascading consequences.

That’s where our attorneys at Hammond Law Group come in.

With over 40 years of combined experience, our attorneys work hand-in-hand with executors to settle estates and avoid unnecessary delays. We become your guide through this confusing maze, preventing wrong turns that lead to expensive dead ends.

Our team provides comprehensive services, including:

  • Asset gathering/management – We help efficiently take inventory of assets, open estate accounts, manage ongoing bills, and access stored financial data.
  • Claims validation – We carefully review any creditor claims and strategically resolve legitimate ones to protect the estate.
  • Property sales – We use our real estate experience to support you in liquidating assets at optimal value.
  • Dispute resolution – If any disputes arise, we have the mediation and litigation experience to resolve or defend estate matters.
  • Distribution guidance – We ensure assets are divided and disbursed properly according to wills, trusts, and laws.
  • Closing documentation – We provide accounting and court filings needed to finalize the estate with legal precision.

By leveraging our administration knowledge, executors shorten the learning curve and minimize delays. Beneficiaries receive clear timelines and responsive communication.

The probate process turns into a journey of closure rather than frustration. If you’re currently waiting on an inheritance, encourage the executor to enlist our team’s support.

The money you inherit will be that much more fulfilling once the extended suspense finally ends. With our help, executors can choose the straightest path to closure. Contact us today to get started.

Ever since I can remember, I have had a deep and genuine passion for the elderly. I’ve spent the past 3 decades of my life working to make a difference in the lives of people living with dementia along with assisting their family members and caregivers along their arduous caregiving journey. I graduated from Pepperdine University, earning my B.S. in Leisure Science/Recreation with an emphasis in Geriatrics. I’ve also earned trainer, consultant, and advanced consultant certifications from Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach to Care, and I complete the extensive recertification process annually.

I am the founder & former executive director of DayBreak, the first and only program to provide adult day services in Teller County. I have also worked as an activities therapist and a nursing home administrator at Namaste Alzheimer’s Center in Colorado Springs. At Namaste, I had the opportunity to develop, implement, and manage the adult day program at both the primary facility and a satellite branch.

Since 1999, I have volunteered as a facilitator of the Alzheimer’s Association’s caregiver support groups in the Teller County area. I was honored to receive the Volunteer of the Year award in 2012. In 2019, I was also awarded the Joe Henjum Senior Accolades Legacy award: Business Professional by the Senior Resource Council. In 2022, I was named the first recipient of the Joe Henjum Lifetime Achievement Award by the

Senior Resource Council of Colorado Springs.

Through my years of working with people living with dementia and their tireless caregivers, I’ve learned the profound value of quality caregiver support. I’m here to help caregivers get the support & stability they need and to gain the confidence they need to make the best choices for their loved ones and live more enjoyable lives.