How Long Does Probate Take: Best And Worst Case Scenarios

how long does probate takeAfter a loved one dies, there is the necessary but rather dry process of finalizing all legal processes. The principal legal event is the transferring of ownership from the deceased to the beneficiaries listed in the deceased’s Will. This process is referred to as probate and below you will find all the details concerning how long this process takes, what needs to be accomplished and a few important notes on protocol.

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The Probate Process

Unfortunately, the probate process does not usually happen quickly. This can be emotionally taxing on the beneficiaries, but the legal system has erected several significant hurdles that must be cleared before the Will can be enacted.

Probate, by definition, means “the official proving of a Will.” In other words, the Will must be verified to be true and accurate. Normally this is not a difficult process and is cleared at the initial court hearing. It is common and highly recommended for someone, usually a lawyer, to be appointed as the Will’s administrator. This allows the process to move along smoothly and within legal accordance. In the case than no administrator or Will exists, then the deceased’s assets are distributed according to each state’s law. As this is almost never as the deceased would have preferred, estate planning is important to ensure fair distribution. Start planning ahead now and leave a strong legacy with this course on learning how to invest, build a portfolio and gain confidence.

I want to briefly touch on the process that begins when no Will or administrator exists. First, a court appointed administrator will be assigned who will then notify those deemed heirs by the state. Then the deceased’s assets are evaluated and, if necessary, used to pay any outstanding debts (i.e. taxes).

Unfortunately, the Estate Tax, which is implemented and revoked almost like clockwork with the political party of the President (Democrats like the Estate Tax, Republicans don’t), is currently in existence. It’s hard to believe that this insane tax exists and that any Democrat advocates it (for the record, I’m a Democrat). Basically, all the assets that the deceased earned throughout their life and already paid taxes on are taxed again. In case you were wondering, as of 2010 the Estate Tax has a cruelly high maximum of 35%. If you think that’s bad, the Estate Tax is only what the Federal Government takes; then the state levies its Inheritance Tax and its enough to make any Democrat question their allegiance.

Anything that remains after taxes and debts are paid is distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries, which brings us to the final question at hand: how long does the probate process take?

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How Long Probate Takes

As you might have expected, it depends. It depends on how well the estate is managed, how detailed the Will is, how good the administrator is, state legislation, whether or not assets have to be sold to pay taxes/debts, whether or not there are disputes among the beneficiaries, etc.

The best case scenario is that everything goes according to plan (the estate was well managed). If this happens, you can expect the probate process to take no more than six to eight months (the average is less than one year). It’s not fast, but there are a lot of legal processes to work through, i.e. the courts are slow.

If there are disputes and the estate was poorly managed with a number of debts to pay, it could easily take several years, even up to four or five, to complete the probate process. This is why it is of the utmost importance for the deceased to plan ahead and communicate his or her plans openly with the beneficiaries and administrator/executor.

Some states are better at moving through the probate process than others. In Florida, for example, the average probate is settled in six months, which is lighting fast (respectively). But in Texas you aren’t even required to be submit the Will of the deceased for four years.

Even if no debts need to be paid, beneficiaries often end up selling the homes and properties left to them because it is a financially wise decision. This interesting (to say the least) yet highly-rated course has some incredible information on how to capitalize on probate real estate.