Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
A partial distribution is anything less than a full final distribution. What usually occurs in this situation is that the personal representative has approximately added up the assets and the liabilities and feels certain that they can make an early distribution without incurring personal liability if the assets can't pay off the liabilities.
If a personal representative makes an early distribution they may be personally on the hook if the balance of assets can't pay the decedent's creditors/liabilities when finalizing the estate. For example, the personal representative makes an early distribution to the heirs in error and then they spend all the monies. If the personal representative can't get the monies back from the heirs then they are liable personally for the debt - because there was at one time money to pay the creditors/liabilities.
It's a personal decision as to how much the personal representative makes if they make an early distribution - there is no rule of thumb - it's totally at their discretion.
So, without knowing what exactly is in the estate and what the debts are, I would have no way of even guessing what you could expect as to a final distribution. Only that the personal representative was being kind in making an early distribution because they didn't have to do so.
There are no liabilities on this estate so I can assume that this partial distribution was a payment in full to all heirs and that it was a partial distribution because it was an early distribution?
No, to the contrary. However, I just can't say for sure - one never knows what a personal representative wants to do or is doing unless you ask.
You will know when there has been a final distribution because the personal representative has two options to close out the estate:
1) family settlement agreement - sending all heirs a final accounting and requesting their acceptance of such and having them sign off on the accounting and then filing such
2) a formal final accounting reviewed and signed off on by the court/judge
So, I don't think that this was a final distribution. To the contrary, I think there is more to come (even a nominal amount) but one never knows.