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How Long Does it Take to Probate a Will?

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Probate Process Duration and Factors Delving into Probate Timelines: Unveiling the Factors Affecting the Duration of Estate Settlement

Probate Process Duration and Factors – If you are an executor, administrator, or beneficiary involved in a probate estate, you must be wondering about the time involved in the process. One of the most frequently asked questions in settling a deceased individual’s estate is, ‘How long does it take to probate a will?’ The answer varies due to several factors, with probate typically spanning from a few months to over a year, or possibly longer.

Before exploring the factors influencing probate duration, let’s first understand the intricacies of what probate entails.

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.

Probate Process Duration and Factors – How Does Probate Work?

Although the formal probate process specifics vary from state to state, there are common general steps.

Firstly, to probate a will, submit it to the probate court to schedule a hearing appointing either the named executor or an estate administrator. Notify the decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries of the hearing.

Once the estate administrator is appointed, provide notice to known creditors and compile a catalog of the estate’s assets, termed “probate property,” including real property, personal items, stocks, bonds, and business interests.

After settling disputes and concluding the probate hearing, the administrator can settle debts, pay estate taxes, and seek permission to distribute estate property to heirs per the will (or per the state’s intestacy law if no will exists).

After settling debts and distributing property, inform the court to conclude the estate.

Probate Process Duration – 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

Conversely, some states offer simplified procedures for smaller estates, typically valued below a specific amount, significantly reducing the probate process duration. For instance, New York utilizes the Small Estates Affidavit, allowing estate assets to be distributed without involving the probate court through a straightforward sworn statement (affidavit) executed by the person(s) entitled to receive probate property.

Probate Process Factors – Can an Estate Bypass Probate?

Bypassing probate is indeed feasible for a quicker and more cost-effective process. Several methods, such as joint property ownership or designating beneficiaries on life insurance, retirement, and financial accounts, provide alternatives.

Establishing a living trust is another option. The grantor funds the trust with chosen assets, retaining control until their passing or incapacitation. Upon such an event, the successor trustee, previously chosen by the grantor, takes over to distribute trust assets according to the grantor’s wishes, completely independent of the probate process.

Do I Need A Probate Lawyer?

While not legally mandatory, seeking the services of a probate lawyer is advisable during the probate process. Especially if you’re acting as an executor or personal representative and have questions about your role, consulting an attorney for guidance is beneficial.

Remember, the most effective way to ensure a swift and smooth probate process for your estate is proactive planning. Even if you may not witness its execution, your heirs will undoubtedly appreciate it.

Source

  1. 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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