How the probate process unfolds may vary depending on the jurisdiction, but there’s one thing for sure: It won’t be fast.
Understanding what factors can affect how long the process takes can help you better prepare (and avoid some unnecessary delays).
Factors that impact how long probate takes
There are numerous reasons one estate can take longer than another going through probate:
- Complex estates with lots of assets or problems will always take longer to adjudicate. The nature of the court’s docket will also be a factor: If it’s busy, everything takes longer.
- Estates with more beneficiaries tend to take longer because there are more individuals for the testator to contact and have sign documentation.
- The estates of testators with assets in multiple states tend to take more time to resolve than others as executors often have to open probate cases in each state.
- Taxes can take a while to file. Most executors must file a federal tax return, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 706 on a testator’s behalf.
- Estates with collections can take longer to close. Executors may have to call in an appraiser to assess the value of rare or unusual collections, intellectual property or mineral rights that a testator had before their distribution.
- When assets have to be sold so their value can be divided, that also slows down the process.
- In-fighting between beneficiaries over the validity of a will may result in delays.
Instances in which an executor breaches their fiduciary duty or can’t get along with beneficiaries may also lead to probate delays. This is especially the case if the court decides a situation warrants replacing the testator.
How to navigate probate delays
The different situations described above may lead to delays in the probate process. How you respond to them when they arise can dictate whether a case ends up dragged out. The guidance and experience a probate attorney can provide in situations like this can potentially help you reduce the length of the setbacks that emerge.