We’ve already discussed what probate is, and how complicated it can get. You would probably not be surprised to hear that probate can easily become a long, time-consuming process.
With this post we are discussing how long probate lasts and how we can speed it up. First off, though, is probate even mandatory?
Is probate necessary or can you avoid it?
Probate is virtually always present after someone passes away. Virtually is the key word here. There are ways that the duration of probate reduces. In some case it is even possible to avoid it completely. Both, however, require very careful planning. For instance, if the property is small and not that valuable, probate could quite short. The same applies for if you have described your wishes very clearly in your Last Will. Then you may just need a signature from the probate court.
In addition to the above, there are certain types of assets that do not need to go through probate. For instance, beneficiaries of retirement plans and life insurances usually receive those directly. Another example of that is real property that is owned by more than one person. If one of the tenants that co-own real estate passes away, then often the property isn’t part of the probate process.
Finally, some people choose to use a revocable Living Trust instead of a Last Will. A Living Trust skips the probate process altogether. However, these Trusts are not ideal for everyone, since they can be hard to set up and maintain.
How long does the probate process take?
In short, it depends. It’s difficult to say for sure how long probate lasts because there are many factor that could heavily effect its duration.
Estate: Size & Value
First of all, the size of your estate can make the time of execution much longer. The larger your estate, the more time the executor might need in order to make sure they distribute everything properly. This is also true if your estate includes many valuable assets.
Complexity of the Will
Another important factor is how complex your Will is. Including certain provision can dramatically increase the amount of time the executor needs to complete all these tasks. For example, a larger number of beneficiaries, setting up a Trust for your children and including any special directives. This doesn’t mean you that should use such provisions if that’s what you want. Just keep in mind that it could be a while before your best friend receives that one guitar you bought together!
A particularly important reason that could complicate probate is estate taxes. At first glance this may seem simple since your Executor will just need to pay off any estate taxes that come up after your death. These payments are made from your estate funds after all. If, however, you own an estate in multiple states or regions it is highly probable that it will have to go through multiple probate processes. This happens because regional or state regulations about property distribution may differ. As a result, the general duration of the probate ends up being longer if there are multiple probate courts involved.
Another way that the probate process (or distribution of property and execution of the Will) can last longer is if someone contests the Will. The probate court will then need to take this into consideration and distribution of property often freezes until such claims are settled. This is also why some people include a no-contest clause in their Last Will: if someone chooses to contest the Will, they are automatically disqualified as beneficiaries.
Late Will Submission
Yet another reason why it could take time before every asset is distributed is simply if the Will was not submitted to the probate court early enough. For instance, if no one submits the Will to the probate court for a whole month, the property of the deceased will not be distributed for this entire time. It is usually the responsibility of the Executor (or the attorney) to submit the Will to the probate court. Finally, keep in mind that the court may have busier days or even weeks which could also delay the process.
All in all, the average probate process lasts 6 to 10 months at least. In most cases though, the process is also going to be over after around a year. More complex cases may take years before all assets have been successfully distributed.
A well-organized Last Will can drastically reduce the duration of probate. Additionally, creating your own Last Will can greatly determine who your assets are going to end up with. Not to mention that you can choose your own executor – a person that you can trust with the task!
You can make all these, and much more decisions simply by filling out your own Myend E-Will.