Think It’s Over? Think Again—You May Need to Reopen the Estate.

In most cases, the phrase “when it’s done, it’s done,” applies to the administration of an estate. California law outlines specific procedures that are designed to ensure all parties have an opportunity to come forward and voice concerns during an estate administration. Once those opportunities have passed, the estate can safely be closed. Unfortunately, however, there are still some circumstances that may arise that could create a need to reopen the estate.

Five Reasons You May Need to Reopen an Estate

In order to reopen an estate, you must first have a valid and compelling reason. Examples of some reasons that may necessitate reopening an estate include the following:

  1. You discover a previously unknown asset belonging to the estate. This is perhaps the most common reason that an estate might be reopened. Assets that might cause a reopening of the estate include bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, or any other type of asset that was previously unknown. 
  2. You discover a new, more recent version of the decedent’s will. The older will is the one that was submitted to and approved by the appropriate Orange County court. In these cases, the estate may need to be reopened.
  3. You discover the existence of an heir that you previously did not know about. In some cases, you may need to reopen the estate in order to recalculate the inheritances of the heirs as a whole. The assets may also need to be re-administered.
  4. You discover a debt that you did not know about before. New debts will not always give rise to the reopening of an estate because there are statutes of limitations that apply to creditors making claims against estates. However, in some cases, it may be beneficial to incorporate the new debt, such as when it may benefit the estate or the heirs from a tax perspective.
  5. You discover fraud, theft, or some other wrongdoing with regard to the administration of the estate.

Anytime you are considering reopening an estate, it is vital to consult with an experienced attorney. Opening a closed estate is not an easy task and requires the knowledge of an experienced professional. Contact our office today to learn how we can help.