TITLE 12

Decedents' Estates and Fiduciary Relations

Administration of Decedents' Estates

CHAPTER 23. ACCOUNTING AND DISTRIBUTION

Subchapter I. General Provisions


(a) Every executor or administrator shall render an account of their administration to the Court of Chancery, in money, every year from the date of their letters until the estate is closed and a final account passed by the Court.

(b) If an executor or administrator fails to perform this duty, the Court of Chancery shall issue process of attachment against the executor or administrator, and may enforce compliance by imprisonment.

(c) The Register of Wills may, for sufficient cause, extend the time for accounting, not to exceed 6 months; and the Register may, upon the affidavit of an executor or administrator, and on its appearing to the Register that there are no transactions or matters for an account in any year, dispense with an account; but from the Register's determination in this respect an appeal may be taken by any interested party to the Court of Chancery.

(d) The Register of Wills shall receive all accountings filed for approval by the Court of Chancery but shall have no power to deny any debt, expense or other item for which allowance is sought. The Court may, however, refuse to allow any item indicative of fraud, illegality or negligent failure to fulfill fiduciary obligations or may further refuse to allow any item representing a debt or expense incurred solely for the purpose of avoiding any tax.

(e) The Register of Wills may forward to the Court of Chancery any estate where there are 2 consecutive years of in activity for judicial action in the Court's discretion, including but not limited to closing the estate or a sua sponte order for a rule to show cause against the executor or administrator.

Code 1852, §§ 1838, 1839; Code 1915, § 3378; Code 1935, § 3843; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2301; 57 Del. Laws, c. 402, § 3; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1; 70 Del Laws, c. 186, § 1; 74 Del. Laws, c. 227, § 4.;

(a) Every account filed by an executor or administrator shall be accompanied by a statement of the names and mailing addresses of each beneficiary entitled to share in the distribution of the estate. In addition, such statement shall indicate the name and address of any beneficiary who is subject to a legal incapacity and the name and address of the guardian or trustee for such beneficiary, if any, and if none, the name and address of a parent, natural or adoptive, of such beneficiary, and the name and address of any beneficiary who has waived the notice to beneficiary as provided in subsection (c) of this section.

(b) Upon the filing of an account with the statement of names and addresses of beneficiaries as provided in subsection (a) of this section, the Register of Wills shall forthwith mail to such beneficiaries or to the guardian, trustee or parent of any legally incapacitated beneficiary, a notice in writing of the filing of the account and that the same shall be open for inspection and exception for 3 months from the mailing of the notice. Such notice need not be mailed to any beneficiary who has waived the notice to beneficiary as provided in subsection (c) of this section. The Register shall certify on the account that the notices required by this subsection were mailed by the Register and the date of such mailing.

(c) Any beneficiary entitled to share in the distribution of an estate may waive in writing any notice of the filing of an account to which such beneficiary is entitled. The beneficiary by such waiver shall consent that the account be approved by the Court. The waiver of a beneficiary subject to a legal incapacity shall be executed by the guardian, trustee or parent, natural or adoptive, of such beneficiary.

(d) Within 3 months of the mailing of such notice, any beneficiary entitled to share in the distribution of the estate who has not waived the notice of the filing of the account pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, may file in the office of the Register of Wills exceptions in writing to the account of an executor or administrator. Exceptions not filed within such 3-month period shall not be considered by the Court. If no exception to the account is filed within such 3-month period, the account shall, subject to the power of the Court to disallow items of the account pursuant to § 2301(d) of this title, be approved.

59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1; 60 Del. Laws, c. 199, § 1; 70 Del Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

(a) All accounts and settlements of executors and administrators as the same shall be passed by the Court of Chancery shall be recorded by the Register of Wills of the several counties in uniform books. The Register shall also maintain an alphabetical index of all such settlements and accounts.

(b) The cost of recording and indexing the settlements and accounts shall be paid out of the funds of the estate to which they relate. The Register shall receive for recording and indexing the accounts and settlements the fees provided by this title.

(c) A certified copy of such record of settlement and accounts of executors and administrators shall be received as evidence in the several courts of the State.

Code 1915, § 3379; Code 1935, § 3844; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2302; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1.;

(a) Whenever a return required under Chapter 15 of Title 30 has been filed and the correct tax and additions to tax, if any, have been paid, a certificate to that effect shall be filed by the Director of Revenue with the Register of Wills of the counties in which the letters have been granted and in which the decedent owned real property.

(b) When no return is required under Chapter 15 of Title 30, and

(1) Real property passed to any person by virtue of joint ownership with right of survivorship or tenancy by the entireties with the decedent, or

(2) Letters have been granted by the Register of Wills in any county and the decedent owned real property,

then an affidavit in a form approved by the Director of Revenue shall be filed by the personal representative (as defined in § 1501 of Title 30 [repealed]) with the Register of Wills of the counties in which the real property is located. The Director of Revenue may require a copy of said affidavit be filed with the Division of Revenue.

(c) [Repealed.]

25 Del. Laws, c. 225, § 4; Code 1915, § 149; 37 Del. Laws, c. 8, § 1; 40 Del. Laws, c. 10, § 1; Code 1935, § 140; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2303; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1; 60 Del. Laws, c. 199, § 2; 64 Del. Laws, c. 252, § 6; 67 Del. Laws, c. 15, § 4; 70 Del. Laws, c. 71, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1; 71 Del. Laws, c. 353, § 9; 75 Del. Laws, c. 198, § 3; 77 Del. Laws, c. 85, § 7; 79 Del. Laws, c. 11, § 1; 81 Del. Laws, c. 52, § 1.;

(a) Commissions and attorneys' fees shall be allowed as provided by rule of the Court of Chancery.

(b) No commission shall be allowed by the Court of Chancery to any executor or administrator who has not complied with the requirements of Chapter 13 of Title 30. This penalty shall not apply until 1 month after notice by the Division of Revenue of such delinquency.

(c) The Court of Chancery may reduce commissions and attorneys' fees if the accounts required to be filed by this chapter are not filed within the required time period.

25 Del. Laws, c. 225, § 4; Code 1915, § 149; 37 Del. Laws, c. 8, § 1; 40 Del. Laws, c. 10, § 1; Code 1935, § 140; 41 Del. Laws, c. 8, § 10; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2304; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1.;

(a) The spouse of a decedent or any person who is a grandparent of the decedent, a lineal descendant of a grandparent of the decedent, the personal representative of any of the foregoing who may be deceased, or the guardian or trustee of any of the foregoing who may be incapacitated, or the trustee of a trust created by the decedent, a funeral director licensed in the State, or the named executor or executors in the decedent's will if the named executor or executors satisfies all qualifications set forth in § 1508 of this title, shall be entitled to the personal estate of the decedent for the purpose of making distribution thereof in accordance with the decedent's will or, if there be no will, with Chapter 5 of this title without awaiting the appointment of a personal representative or probate of a will upon executing an affidavit attesting under oath that:

(1) No petition for the appointment of a personal representative is pending or has been granted;

(2) Thirty days have elapsed since the death of the decedent;

(3) The value of the personal estate of the decedent other than property described in § 1901(b) and (c) of this title and other than jointly owned property, does not exceed $30,000;

(4) All known debts of the decedent are paid or provided for;

(5) The surviving spouse's allowance, pursuant to § 2308 of this title, has been paid, provided for, waived or has expired by lapse of time pursuant to § 2308(b) of this title;

(6) Decedent did not own real estate in Delaware, either solely or as tenants in common; and

(7) There is furnished to any person owing any money, having custody of any property or acting as registrar or transfer agent of any evidence of interest, indebtedness, property or right of the decedent an affidavit showing the existence of the foregoing conditions and the right of the affiant to receive such money or property or to have such evidence transferred for the purpose set forth in this subsection.

(b) Preference for receiving the personal estate of the decedent under this section for the purpose of making distribution thereof shall be given to the named executor in the decedent's will who is not disqualified by the provisions set forth in § 1508 of this title, the spouse, any child, any parent, any sibling, any grandchild or any grandparent of the decedent, or to a funeral director licensed in the State, in that order. There shall be no order of preference among the remaining persons or entities entitled to receive the personal estate pursuant to subsection (a) of this section.

(c) The named executor in the decedent's will who is not disqualified by the provisions set forth in § 1508 of this title and next of kin of a decedent shall have the right upon the death of the decedent:

(1) To take possession of the decedent's motor vehicle or vehicles; and

(2) To enter any premises for the sole and exclusive purpose of removing from the premises clothing belonging to the decedent to be used for the burial or viewing of the decedent; and

(3) To enter the residential rental unit of the decedent, when the decedent is the sole tenant of a residential rental unit for the purpose of removing therefrom and taking possession, but not ownership, of all of the decedent's belongings in that unit. Access and removal shall take place during business hours at mutually agreeable times to the parties with standing unless otherwise agreed to and must be completed within 30 days of the death of the decedent or else the rights granted under this subsection shall expire.

The executor shall have preference over the next of kin to carry out the actions set forth in this subsection. If the decedent did not leave a will that names a qualified executor and no next of kin is available, a funeral director may have access to enter the premises for the aforementioned purpose of securing clothes only. The register of wills shall provide a form limited to facilitating action taken pursuant to this subsection. Such a form must be obtained prior to any person acting pursuant to this subsection.

(d) Nothing in subsection (a) of this section shall preclude the Register of Wills from issuing an affidavit when and where appropriate.

26 Del. Laws, c. 259, § 1; Code 1915, § 3380; Code 1935, § 3845; 46 Del. Laws, c. 165, § 1; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2305; 53 Del. Laws, c. 370; 56 Del. Laws, c. 295; 59 Del. Laws, c. 68, § 1; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1; 63 Del. Laws, c. 281, § 1; 64 Del. Laws, c. 252, § 5; 66 Del. Laws, c. 350, §§ 1, 2; 70 Del. Laws, c. 114, §§ 1, 2; 74 Del. Laws, c. 227, §§ 1, 2; 75 Del. Laws, c. 189, § 1; 77 Del. Laws, c. 302, § 1; 78 Del. Laws, c. 151, §§ 1, 2; 79 Del. Laws, c. 65, § 1; 80 Del. Laws, c. 151, § 1.;

(a) The person making payment, delivery, transfer or issuance pursuant to the affidavit described in § 2306 of this title shall be released to the same extent as if made to the personal representative of the decedent and the person shall not be required to see to the application thereof or to inquire into the truth of any statement in the affidavit, but the distributees to whom payment, delivery, transfer or issuance is made shall be answerable therefor to any person having a prior right and be accountable to any intestate distributee or to any personal representative thereafter appointed.

(b) If the person to whom an affidavit is delivered pursuant to § 2306 of this title refuses to pay, deliver, transfer or issue the property, it may be recovered or compelled in an action brought in the Court of Chancery for such purposes by or on behalf of the distributees entitled thereto, upon proof of the facts required to be stated in the affidavit.

26 Del. Laws, c. 259, § 2; Code 1915, § 3381; 30 Del. Laws, c. 209, § 1; Code 1935, § 3846; 46 Del. Laws, c. 165, § 1; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2306; 59 Del. Laws, c. 68, § 2; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1; 70 Del Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

(a) The surviving spouse of any decedent shall be entitled to receive and the executor or administrator shall pay to such spouse as soon as convenient, in the manner provided in this section, cash up to the amount of $7,500 out of the estate of the decedent, which payment shall be made in the order of preference of claims against the estate in § 2105 of this title, as amended. The foregoing provision shall not affect any other rights to which such spouse may be entitled, either under the will of the decedent or the intestacy laws of this State.

(b) The allowance to the surviving spouse of a decedent provided for in subsection (a) of this section shall be of no effect unless and until such spouse shall, within 9 months from the date of death or 6 months from the date of the granting of letters, testamentary or of administration, whichever shall be the shorter period, notify in writing the Register of Wills of the county wherein the letters were granted and the executor or administrator of such spouse's demand that a specific sum, not exceeding $7,500, be so set aside out of the proceeds of the estate of the decedent.

(c) The allowance provided for in subsection (a) of this section shall be considered to be a debt of the estate, and the executor or administrator may sell so much of the property of the decedent as will enable the executor or administrator to pay the allowance in the same manner as the executor or administrator may be enabled to do by law for the payment of other debts of the decedent or of the estate.

Code 1915, § 3415; 38 Del. Laws, c. 185, § 1; Code 1935, § 3876; 43 Del. Laws, c. 211, § 1; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 2307; 50 Del. Laws, c. 16, § 1; 50 Del. Laws, c. 378, §§ 1-3; 59 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1; 63 Del. Laws, c. 281, § 2; 70 Del Laws, c. 186, § 1; 75 Del. Laws, c. 189, § 2.;

In all cases where there is an interest in real property owned by the decedent at the time of death, a certified copy of the death certificate of the decedent shall be filed in the office of the Registrar of Wills in and for the county wherein the interest in the real property is situated.

66 Del. Laws, c. 368, § 1.;