The receipt and release form usually has a refunding agreement in it, too. The refunding agreement states that if there is an error made by the executor in the amount or type of distribution, you will give the asset back to the estate so the executor may correct the error and make proper distributions to all of the parties.
There is no harm in signing a receipt and release form and not going through the court process, unless you suspect something is wrong in the accounting or operation of the estate. If you feel the estate is not being handled properly by the executor or the attorney, then you should not sign the receipt and release form, and you should demand that a full accounting be done before any distribution to any beneficiary.
If the executrix asks the court for an order of distribution, you may object and require the executrix to disclose more information about the estate so that the court is satisfied that the estate is being administered properly.
When an estate ends, the object is to give the beneficiaries a final accounting of all of the financial transactions that have taken place in the estate, and to distribute whatever assets are remaining in the estate to the beneficiaries. The family settlement agreement is an informal, but legal, method of accounting to the beneficiaries concerning all of the financial transactions that have taken place in the estate. It is also a statement of how much each person will receive from the estate either through the receipt and release method or at the termination of the estate. The family settlement agreement also states the beneficiaries of the estate agree to release the executrix from any future liability, assuming the executrix has not committed fraud.
The first and final account and schedule of proposed distribution method is more formal than the family settlement agreement. The executrix files a final accounting with the court and asks that the court make an order allowing distribution of the assets from the estate to those persons as named in the will. If the court makes such an order, the estate is terminated and becomes final.
The executrix then uses the court’s order as a basis for making distributions to the beneficiaries, and does not have to receive any type of approval from the beneficiaries, because the court has made an order as to how the distribution is to be made.