The time it takes to probate an estate will ultimately depend on the assets and liabilities of the deceased and whether or not his or her affairs were in order at the time of death. If the deceased’s estate was complicated, it may take a considerable period of time to determine precisely what assets were held and what debts were owed by the deceased; and thereafter to discharge any debts and taxes. Alternatively, there may be difficulties locating beneficiaries or even legal challenges to the legality of the will or particular provisions of the will. Each of these events is likely to cause a delay in the probate process should they occur.
Each state has its own set of procedures for probate and these will need to be complied with. Some states even have procedures for ‘small estates’ which can speed up the probate process. Taking all of these factors into account, probate can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months to a number of years. By way of simple example, the average time for the probate process in California is 7 to 9 months, if all goes well. Of course, if there is a legal challenge to the will or some other lawsuit, this time can be substantially increased. There are many probates which have been ongoing for decades!
Generally speaking, however, probate should be completed within one year. This period of time is known as the ‘executor’s year’. If, for whatever, reason probate has not been completed within that time frame, the executor may be required to file a status report with the probate court to provide an explanation of what still has to be done to complete probate and an estimate of how much time it’s likely to take.
If the executor fails to report, the beneficiaries under a will can ask the court to make an order requiring the filing of such a report and/or can take any other action they deem necessary to close probate including the removal of the personal representative and the appointment of someone else in their stead.
How Can We Help You?
For more information on probate and executors, read some of the other probate and executor articles on this website.
Alternatively, check out our book, How to Probate an Estate. It takes you step-by-step through the entire process of probating an estate.
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