You ask "Is there a time limit to settle an estate?" Unfortunately, the answer is usually no. The phrase "settling an estate" can have two meanings: First, it can mean
that the estate must go through probate, the court-lawyer ridden process required of most property left by wills. Second, it can mean transferring an estate outside of probate, by using devices such as living trusts and transfer-on-death accounts. Generally, probate takes much longer, but normally neither process has set time requirements. Each state sets its own probate rules, so it's possible that in a few states, strict probate time schedules are adhered to. California, where I practice, surely isn't one of them. I once worked in an office that was well into its seventh year of handling a probate estate, and was in no hurry to finish.