If you are an executor, administrator, or beneficiary to a probate estate, you’re most likely curious—just how much time will this take? Keep reading.
One of the most general questions related to settling a deceased individual’s estate is “How long does it take to probate a will?” The answer is subject to a variety of factors, but commonly, probate can take somewhere between a couple of months up to more than a year (or possibly years).
Prior to getting to what could impact the duration of the probate process, nevertheless, let’s find out what probate involves.
What Is Probate?
Probate is a court supervised, legal procedure of settling the estate of a deceased individual. If there was a last will and testament in place, the process serves to authenticate it and resolve any conflicts over inheritances; if the decedent passed away not having a will, the court is required to designate an administrator for their estate.
Probate also provides the executor designated in the will the legal authority to supervise the probate estate, which comprises of allocating assets and settling debts.
How Does Probate Work?
Even though the specific of the formal probate process differ state to state, there are some common steps that are general in every jurisdiction.
Foremost, to probate a will, the document needs to be submitted to the probate court in order to plan a hearing to designate either the executor named in the will or an administrator for the estate. Notice of the planned hearing is required to be given to the decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries.
Following the administrator of the estate being appointed, they are required give notice to every known creditor of the estate and also carry out a catalog of the estate’s assets, now known as “probate property.” This can comprise of real (physical) property, personal property (stamps, painting, other objects that can be moved), stocks and/or bonds, business interests, etc.
Once any disputes are managed and the probate hearing concludes, the administrator can pay out creditors and any estate taxes in addition to requesting permission to start allocating estate property to heirs in accordance to the will’s terms (or in accordance to the states intestacy law if there wasn’t will).
When all debts have been settled and property allocated, the court needs to be informed so the estate can be concluded.
How Long Does It Take To Probate A Will?
All in all, probating a will should take less than a year, although in lamentable circumstances it could even take longer. Some considerations that could make probate process longer can comprise of:
- Will contesting challenging credibility of the will and/or specific inheritances
- “Complicated” assets like business interests, which are more difficult to allocate to heirs, rather than direct ones such as financial institution accounts
- Taxable estate, mostly since an additional governmental entity (IRS) will be engaged
On the other hand, however, several states do have straightforward processes for smaller estates (those that are valued below a specific amount), which can minimize the length of the probate process significantly. New York state, for instance, utilizes the Small Estates Affidavit to enable assets of an estate to be allocated devoid of getting the probate court engaged through an uncomplicated sworn statement (affidavit) carried out by the person(s) entitled to get probate property.
Can an Estate Bypass Probate?
But what about bypassing probate? Is it feasible?
For the sake of having as quick and cost effective probate process as feasible, it might be appealing to skip it altogether. The good thing is for those wondering how to bypass probate is that there are a number of ways, like the joint ownership of property (property transfers straightforward to the other owner) or by appointing planned beneficiaries directly on life insurance, retirement, financial institution ”pay on death”, and capital investment “transfer on death” accounts.
Devising a living trust is an additional option. The grantor (the individual creating the trust) funds the trust by placing in assets of their choice. The grantor keeps management over the trust’s property until passing or incapacitation. As that point comes, the trust is transferred over to the successor trustee (chosen beforehand by the grantor) to allocate trust property in accordance with the grantor’s wishes. All of this occurs independent from the probate process.
Do I Need A Probate Lawyer?
Retaining a probate lawyer isn’t a legal requirement during the probate process, but if you are engaged in probate, you may want to consult with an attorney for counsel—particularly if you are serving as an executor or personal representative and you have inquiries about your role as you probate an estate.
In general, don’t forget that the best way to make sure the probate process goes as fast and streamlined as feasible for your own estate is to plan in advance. You might not be around to see it executed, but your heirs will definitely be appreciative.
- Michelle Kaminsky, E. (2020, August 03). How Long Does Probate Take? Retrieved November 11, 2020, from https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/how-long-does-probate-take
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