How Long Does Probate Take if There Is a Will?

Depending on the number of beneficiaries and if there is a valid will, the length of probate can extend from six months up to a year. Contrary to what one might think, it is not an easy procedure.

The probate conduct consists of many obligatory steps to move the deceased individual’s assets into the hands of its beneficiaries. It often happens that the shares in the inheritance are unclear, leading to disagreements among the heirs extending the process for years.

Other delays such as unpaid debts and taxes or problems with monetizing the property may occur along the way and thus also slow down the procedures.

Regardless of whether you inherit possessions according to law or under the will, it is strongly advised to conduct the probate proceedings to dispose of the inheritance lawfully.

What Is Probate?

Probate is a commonly used term to describe a legal process that allows you to deal with a decedent’s estate. The term estate includes money, possessions, and property. Probate refers to a legal document crucial to carry out the inheritance proceedings.

If there is a will, the official name of the document is a Grant of Probate. It contains distribution instructions left by the deceased about the names and the number of the executors or personal representatives of the inheritance.

Suppose you obtain a will. In that case, the probate process involves:

  • Proving that the will is lawfully valid.
  • Paying relevant inheritance taxes.
  • Liquidating the assets.
  • Executing the decedent’s instructions.

The probate can take anywhere from six months to a few years, depending on the estate’s value and how many complications arise. Below you will find more factors responsible for slowing down the legal process.

The Number of Beneficiaries

With an increased number of estate beneficiaries, the probate proceedings may take longer, especially if they live far away from their personal representative or the attorney’s office. 

Sending documentation to numerous people and locations takes time, so it will require a lot of patience.

Conflicts Among the Heirs

Some probate procedures for low-value estates can last longer if there is disagreement among the beneficiaries about how the estate should be handled.

It’s uncommon that all the parties involved agree on everything and work together to sell the property. Siblings and family members usually project their personal disagreements onto the probate process and nitpick over every action the executor takes.

Size of the Estate

The size of the estate plays a significant role in how long the process will take. The more assets are involved, the more paperwork needs to be done, and more settlements need to be made.

In the case when your estate is valued under $500,000, your probate proceedings will likely conclude under 14 months. Beneficiaries of estates valued at over $500,000 will have to wait for the final decision between 17 to 42 months.

State Laws

The probate process rules vary from one state to another, which means there is no one conclusive reply to “How long does probate take?”

In Texas, for example, the legal proceedings are simplified to the maximum and require minimum court oversight. Thanks to that, probate can be settled in as little as a few weeks.

In comparison, probate court proceedings in California take at least eight months. If you are pressed for time, you can always consider opening a probate estate in another state.

Estate Taxation

Probate execution will take longer if the estate owes estate taxes. You cannot finalize a taxable until you receive a closing letter from the Revenue Service office and the state taking authority.

It can take up to 8 months between filing an estate tax return and obtaining an IRS response. The good news is that only estates valued at over $11.58 million (unless proceedings are open at the District of Columbia and other 12 states) are subject to federal taxation, which can save the beneficiaries a few months.

How Long Does the Probate Process Take?

Succession proceedings are not quick and easy for various reasons. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that the executives have as little trouble as possible after one’s death. An advised practice is to consult a lawyer, make a will and pay all the debts and due taxes.

A complicated financial and legal process is the last thing you need when you’re grieving over a loved one. For that reason, it is crucial to prepare for lengthy proceedings beforehand.

The probate could take less than a year if you and other parties involved get along and find common ground. Dividing the assets and liquidating the estate may last longer (sometimes up to 4 years), depending on how complicated the assets are, the value of the estate, taxation rules, and state laws.

Anzhela Sychyk

Anzhela is a seasoned business journalist with a keen eye for spotting industry trends and a knack for explaining complex financial concepts in a clear and accessible way. With over 15 years of experience covering the world of finance and economics, Anzhela has established herself as a respected authority on all things business.