How Long Does Probate Take
Losing a family member or a friend can be disheartening. At a time like this, several concerns and questions are often associated with settling the deceased person’s estate. Many beneficiaries may care to know if probate is necessary. However, one of the questions commonly asked by a decedent’s survivors is “How long does probate take?”
It is natural to be curious about the duration the probate process will take because the last thing you want to do regarding estate settling after your loved one passed away is waiting endlessly.
Don’t be overwhelmed; you will find the answer to that question in a while but before we go any further into the typical duration of a probate process, let’s take a look at what probate means.
What is Probate
Probate refers to a legal process of settling an estate – such as property, money, and other possessions of a deceased person.
If the decedent left a will before his or her demise, the probate process, supervised by the probate court, ensures the authentication of the will and testament and that the assets are distributed accordingly to prevent any disputes that can arise over inheritances.
In a situation when the deceased person dies without leaving a will, or the probate court cannot validate the authenticity of the will presented by the heirs, the court issues a Letter of Administration to the closest relatives in an order determined by state law to authorize them in overseeing the estate. However, the estate still goes through the probate process.
The Probate Process – What is it?
First and foremost, it is worth noting that you need to find out if probate is necessary for your decedent’s estate before you venture into the process, as not everyone needs to go through the probate process.
For instance, if the deceased person’s assets are jointly owned by a survivor – a spouse or a civil partner, there will be no probate as the asset will be transferred to the joint owner survivor by the right to survivorship.
However, if probate needs to be carried out, the highlighted steps must be followed:
- You must register the death of the individual.
- Find out if there is a will or not.
- If there is one, file a request to begin probate at the county’s probate court.
- Appointing an executor by the court to legal responsibility for carrying out the instructions.
- Notifying interested parties such as creditors, beneficiaries, heirs, etc.
- Taking inventory of all the assets, determining the date of death values, and settling the decedent’s debts.
- File tax returns to determine if the estate is liable for tax.
- Disperse the assets according to the will.
The Probate Process – How Long is it?
Generally speaking, the probating duration depends on many factors. The process could take from a few months to more than a year or even more. It might take a minimum of 8 – 12 weeks to go through the process properly on a precise note. So what are the major factors that determine how long the probate process is?
State Probate Laws
This one of the most important determining factors of a probating timeline. This is because each state has its own rules guiding the probate process, and these rules differ from state to state.
Some states with a refined and simplified process can complete the process within a few weeks, while others can spend up to two years before the probate is completed.
Furthermore, the probating timeline can be delayed further if the assets are in more than one state. For example, if the deceased person has an apartment in California and has another property in Texas, you will need to go through probate proceedings for both states, which will operate individually at a different pace.
The Size of the Estate
The size of the decedent’s estate plays a key role in the length of the probate process. If the estate does not contain many properties, but only contains just a house, the probating process should be less complicated and can only take a couple of weeks to be completed.
However, if the estate contains more assets like a house, bank account, and a piece of land, this might be a bit more complicated and take more time. Although the amount or size of the asset does not matter in some states, some focus more on the estate’s overall value.
Disagreement Among Beneficiaries
Sometimes not all the beneficiaries will agree with the decisions made regarding the estate settling, especially when there are many beneficiaries involved or when the estates are high in value.
Little things such as quarreling over whether to sell a property or not can cause arguments among the beneficiaries as not everyone might be willing to have the property sold. Things can get out of hand when a beneficiary threatens the other. And all these disputes can slow down the probate timeline.
Are the Estates Liable to Tax
Taxable estates often take a long probating timeline because a closing letter from the Internal Revenue Service must be collected before a taxable estate is closed. In addition, in case the state estate taxes are also due, a closing letter must be obtained from the state taxing authority.
Meanwhile, it may take up to 8 months to receive a response from the Internal Revenue Service after filing an estate tax return, and this may cause a delay in the entire probate process.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, the probate process does not have a specific timeline; it can take a few months if the beneficiaries have no conflicts of interest or form of dispute, if the estate is not liable to tax, and if the assets are not complex. In other situations, the process can take up to a year or more.
The best way to avoid a lengthy probate process is to skip the probate proceedings. And this can only be done when the deceased person is still alive by ensuring proper estate planning.
However, if probate is necessary for you, having a certified probate lawyer to guide you through the probate process, educating yourself on probate laws, and keeping all the beneficiaries abreast of any issues can help speed up the probate proceedings.