time limit on distribution of estate assets

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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time limit on distribution of estate assets

My brother is executor of my mother’s estate. My mother died over a year ago and some things have not yet been distributed to myself and my sister. In particular, the hundreds of family photographs have not been addressed. Is there a time limit in the state of Virginia for this to happen? Can he just keep these items for himself if they have not been specifically assigned for distribution to other family members? Thanks for your help.

Asked on May 31, 2018 under Estate Planning, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) There is no specific time limit or time frame within which this must be done.
2) An executor has NO right to keep anything not left to him.
3) Despite there being no hard-and-fast time frame, executors are held to a "fiduciary duty" to a) obey or honor any will; b) if there is no will, to follow the laws for "intestate succession" (distribution when there is no will); c) be loyal to beneficiaries; and d) act with reasonable care and haste in fulfilling his responsibilities. If you believe he is violating one or more of these obligations, you can bring a legal action for an "accounting" (that's the traditional name; it's possible your state has a different name for this) to make him "account" for his actions as executor. This kind of action is much more complicated than, say, a small claims suit; you are strongly advised to let a probate attorney help you. If you don't want a lawyer to help you (or cannot afford one), contact the probate court in the county where your mother lived for basic instructions.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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