Probating a will can be a long and arduous process. The length of time it will take to settle the estate will depend on a number of factors. To get a sense of how long does it take to probate a will, we’ve broken down the steps of the process.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of settling an estate of a deceased person. The main functions of probating estates are as follows:
- Establishing who is in charge of managing the estate
- Validation of the will
- Settling debts and paying creditors
- Handling taxes
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries
- Closing the estate
How Does Probate Work?
Probate begins by deciding who will be the executor of the estate and evaluating the will. If the will is deemed to have been made uncoerced and when the deceased was of sound mind, the court will validate it. In that case, the will’s appointed executor will be placed in charge of the estate.
If there was not a will or the will is deemed invalid, the probate court will appoint an Administrator of the Estate to handle the probate process.
After the personal representative has been appointed, they will notify all creditors of the deceased’s passing so that they may collect any debts. The personal representative of the estate will then pay out creditors, taxes, and beneficiaries according to the will and the law.
Steps in the Probate Process Timeline
There are many steps in the process of settling an estate. Each one can take months or even a year. Any complications or unexpected problems in one of these steps can make the process take even longer. Here’s an estimate of how long each step of the probate process may take.
Prepare and File Petition for Probate (1 to 4 months):
The first step in handling financial matters after a loved one has died is to open probate. To do so, the will’s executor will need to file a petition to the court where the deceased lived. Filing the petition will involve acquiring a death certificate, finding the will, and asking for a probate hearing. This step can take anywhere from 1 to 4 months.
Give Notice to Creditors (3 to 6 months):
Once probate has been opened, the executor will be expected to give notice of the deceased’s passing to creditors. This process will look different depending on the state in which the deceased lived.
Giving notice to creditors may involve a written letter to each creditor or an announcement in a local newspaper. After notice has been given, you’ll need to wait a few months to allow the creditors time to request any outstanding debt.
Pay Debts and Fees (6 to 12 months):
After creditors have been notified, it will take some time to pay out all debts. The length of this step will depend on how many creditors the deceased has. The executor will also need to collect the deceased’s life insurance, income tax returns, and estate tax returns. They’ll also handle other tax implications as needed.
Inventory Assets (6 to 12 months):
The executor will also be responsible for inventorying the assets within the estate. This process will take longer if the estate is large or there are unusual assets involved. Assets that are difficult to appraise, like artwork and real estate, will also take more time.
During this time, the executor will make an accounting of all assets, acquire an appraisal of each asset’s worth, and start to liquidate the estate.
Distribute Assets (9 to 18 months):
The last steps of the probate process involve distributing the remaining assets to the estate’s heirs and beneficiaries. The executor will need to follow the will to determine who should receive what from the estate. It may take time to locate beneficiaries and distribute the assets appropriately. Typically, this process will take around 9 to 18 months.
Close the Estate (9 to 24 months):
After all matters have been handled and the estate assets have been distributed appropriately, the estate is ready to be closed. The court will need time to verify that all steps have been followed.
Why Does it Take So Long to Probate a Will?
Probating a will can take a long time, especially if there are complicating factors. If you are handling a large estate, an estate with unusual assets, or an interested party is contesting the will, probate will take even longer.
Bottom Line: How Long Does it Take to Probate a Will?
Generally speaking, the probate process will take several months to a year. This is because the court needs to be sure that all matters are handled according to the law. There needs to be an assurance that any outstanding debts and taxes are paid. Probate will also ensure that the appropriate beneficiaries are paid fairly.
Having a probate attorney can help you speed up the probate process. If you think you could benefit from consulting an estate lawyer, contact The Legacy Lawyers. You can schedule a free consultation by calling 800-840-1998.