How Long Does Probate Take?

Wondering how long the entire probate process is likely to take when settling the estate of a deceased relative or friend? It can be a demanding process, especially as you will also be coping with the emotional situation of the passing of a beloved family member or close friend. 

There are a few different phases you will need to go through for the probate process – and you could be involved in a long-winded process that goes through the courts. It can also be a complex process that is difficult to grasp. 

So, if you came across this blog post for the answer to the question ‘how long does probate take’ you will find the answers here. This blog post covers the key facts on the probate process and the main factors that impact the timeline to help you understand how long probate may take.

What is Probate?

If you go through probate, it is the process of carrying out the will of the deceased person and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries named in the will. It is a legal process in which you will go through the courts in order to validate and legalize the will. There are a few different types of probate that you might experience. The main types include formal probate and informal probate. 

Formal Probate Administration

In general, formal probate is required in situations where the deceased wrote a will, but you cannot find the original copy. There is another situation where you might have to go through formal probate – this is where the will’s legality is contested. 

Formal probate involves initiating a hearing through the court that takes place after you submit a petition. Depending on your state, you might be involved in a supervised formal probate, or you might be involved with an unsupervised informal probate. 

The key difference is that supervised informal probate requires the involvement of the court for the entire probate procedure, whereas unsupervised formal probate leaves the task to the executor. Once the executor has carried out their role and distributed the assets under an unsupervised formal probate, they will then submit a report to the court. 

Informal Probate Administration

Informal probate, on the other hand, means you only have to follow an administration procedure to complete the probate proceedings. Whereas formal probate must go through the courts, informal probate can take place without any probate hearing process or going to court. Informal probates occur when a will already has legal validity and there are no disputes concerning its contents. Specifically, if none of the beneficiaries contest the names put forward as heirs, informal probate can go ahead. 

How Long Does Probate Take? A Short Answer

Here’s the short answer to the question ‘how long does probate take?’ The average length of time you can expect to wait for a probate to be completed is between two months and two years. Multiple factors can influence the timeline for the probate period to end – this is why the length of time can vary. 

Some of the different factors that impact the average probate include:

  • The probate laws in your state
  • The type of probate you go through, and
  • Whether there is a will present 

Continue reading, as we have covered the probate proceedings you will have to follow in great detail. We have also provided a sample timeline and provided the critical facts on the above factors, and if you are curious about whether you can avoid probate – find out more here.

How Does Probate Work? Probate Timeline Explained

We have provided the key timeline for the probate period below. The timeline for probate looks something like this. 

Filing the Petition (1 – 4 months)

You will first need to submit your petition to initiate the probate period. This involves completing a form and submitting it to the probate court (which must be the county court located in the area where the deceased lived). 

Alongside this form, the executor will also need to submit additional paperwork copies, including the will and the death certificate. The approximate time this will take is three days, but it might take longer depending on the circumstances or delays.

Contacting Beneficiaries and Creditors (1 – 4 months)

As executor, you will next need to inform the beneficiaries and creditors that the deceased has passed away. You will need to check the laws in your state to find out which process to follow, as this will differ from state to state. 

For this process, you might need to inform each beneficiary and creditor with a written document. The creditors of the deceased will then have a specific timespan to submit their claims, which also differs from state to state, and can last up to four months.

Inventory of Assets and Debts (2 – 6 months)

Once you have contacted the beneficiaries and creditors, you will next need to carry out an assets and debts inventory. This will include calculating an estimated value of the assets. The length of time this will take will be determined by the number of assets within the estate and how large the estate is. To do this step, you will need to get the assets appraised, which include:

  • The property or real estate
  • Stocks, and
  • Bank accounts

Asset liquidation is also included in this step, a process where you will have to sell the assets and house for cash which will be distributed amongst the heirs. Asset liquidation will include assets such as businesses and vehicles. You will also need to carry out an inventory of the debts. This is required so the debts of the deceased can be settled. As an estimate, asset and debt inventory can take a few months, with the maximum amount of time being six months.

Administrator or Executor Pays Bills and Debts (3 – 9 months)

Now that you have completed the inventory of the debts, you will have to pay the outstanding debts of the deceased. To complete this step, it is necessary that you sell the assets first. With the sale of the assets involved, this stage can typically take several months – potentially up to nine months.

Distribution of Remaining Assets (3 – 9 months)

Now you are going to have to distribute all the assets that remain to the beneficiaries. To do this, you will need to follow what is written in the will. You can expect this stage to take an average of three to nine months depending on the number of beneficiaries and the fact that each recipient must sign for the asset. 

Close the Estate and Notify the Court (4 – 24 months)

Finally, once you have distributed the remaining assets, your task is to file the receipts to the court. Part of this step also involves requesting the court to close the estate. You will then also submit your reports and request to no longer have the role of executor. With these tasks in mind, you can expect this step to last between four and 24 months.

Other Factors Affecting the Probate Timeline

You should be aware that there are a few other factors that can affect the length of the probate process. Here we have discussed some of the essential factors that might make the process longer.

State Probate Laws

Probate laws vary from state to state. According to Florida’s probate laws, for example, a personal representative has 60 days to carry out the inventory of the estate after gaining personal representative status. An executor has no limit on their time to file the will, which is the same in Oregon. However in states like Texas, you have a time limit – you must submit the will within four years following the passing of the deceased.

Type of Probate

As mentioned, there are a few different types of probate. These types of probate can affect the length of the process. An informal probate case typically takes a shorter timeframe than a formal probate. An informal probate is specifically suited for smaller estates that have smaller values. 

There are also generally not as many creditors for estates of this type, meaning the process is faster with informal probate. A formal probate case requires the supervision of the court, which makes it a long probate process overall.

The Value of the Estate

The higher the value of the estate, the longer the probate tends to take. This is because all of the estate assets of a high value estate have to be inventoried. Not only can this take a longer time, but the assets also need to be liquidated. If the estate is smaller, you can expect the process to be quicker as – in addition to having fewer assets, they can be probated as small estate

Presence of a Will

The length of the probate period is also affected by whether a will is present or not. Here is how a will can influence the probate period.

Will is Present

If a will is present, probate is normally faster than without one. First, the court will not need to choose someone to act as executor for the distribution of the assets. Second, the court will have to determine how the assets will be distributed in specific percentages, which you can expect to take a longer time.

Will is not Present

If a will is not present, you can expect the probate period to normally last a longer period. This is normally the case as the deceased will not have selected someone to act as executor, which means the court will have to choose someone. There’s also the fact that the process will be thoroughly overseen by the court, which makes the procedure longer.

Beneficiaries or Heirs

The main way beneficiaries can cause a longer probate period is by conflicts, disputes and will contestation. Here’s why.

Conflicts and Disputes

Beneficiaries can often disagree over the distribution of assets. This can cause the probate period to take longer, typically because they have to go to court to be settled. These court sessions can occur for several reasons.

  • The deceased might have been influenced significantly to write the will a certain way
  • The deceased might not have been mentally capable when writing the will, or
  • There were no witnesses to the signing of the will

Conclusion

The probate period can be a difficult time, especially when handling emotions following the passing of a loved one. But being prepared and knowing how long probate can take is always useful. In summary, it can take more than a year, depending on certain circumstances. For smaller estates, you can expect to encounter a smoother probate period. However, for larger estates, and for wills that have been contested, the process can take longer.

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