Wrapping up the estate of a deceased person takes time and costs money, which ultimately detracts from the amount the beneficiaries receive through the probate system. Accordingly, beneficiaries may wish to keep track of the administration expenses incurred during this period. Texas law provides beneficiaries with certain rights to receive reports about these expenses, called accountings.
What Is an Accounting?
An accounting is a report created by the estate's personal representative (who is also known as an executor or administrator) that explains how every dollar in the estate has been distributed or spent. Personal representatives are fiduciaries, which means that they have certain responsibilities and duties under law. As a fiduciary, the personal representative must adhere to the terms of the estate -- if there is a will, for example -- must be loyal to the beneficiaries and not act in his own self interest. The personal representative is required by law to keep the estate's assets separate from other assets.
Read More: What Form Do I Use in Probate for Final Accounting?
The personal representative is required by Texas law to file an annual report until the estate is closed. The annual account will include all money or other property that remains in the estate. The annual report shall be filed with the probate court in which the estate was opened. If the personal representative does not file the annual accounting, the court may request that the personal representative show why he has not done so. If the court does not act, any interested person may ask the court to investigate by written request. If the personal representative continuously fails to respond to these requests, he could fined up to $500.
Right to Demand Accounting
A beneficiary has the right to demand that the personal representative produce an accounting of the estate 15 months after the personal representative was appointed. This accounting on demand must include a list of the property that has come into the estate, all debts and expenses of the estate, any distributions made from the estate as well as the remaining property and money left in the estate. This accounting must be provided to the beneficiary within 60 days of her request. If the personal representative does not comply with the demand, the beneficiary may seek to compel the action in court.
Once the assets of the estate have been distributed, the personal representative must issue a final accounting with the court, which must also be sent to each beneficiary. The final accounting must also include an affidavit of the personal representative attesting to the distribution of assets and the expenses paid by the estate. Filing this affidavit concludes the term of the personal representative. Beneficiaries of the estate may request a closing of the estate if the personal representative does not.
- Texas Probate: Trust Litigation – Suing and Defending a Trustee
- Texas Probate Code: Chapter VIII, Proceedings During Administration
- Collin County Bar Association: Mary Burdette, Enforcing Beneficiaries’ Rights
- Harris County: Probate Courts – FAQ
- Estate Settlement: Executor Responsibilities, Executor Duties
Kay Lee began freelance writing for Answerbag and eHow in 2010. She is an attorney in Washington, DC, practicing since 2006. Lee specializes in employee benefits and executive compensation. She holds a Juris Doctor from the Columbus School of Law and a Master of Laws from Georgetown University Law Center.