Probate is the court-controlled process of validating a will and administering the testator’s estate before apportioning each heir their portion. Usually, the beneficiaries must wait until the entire probate process concludes to get legal ownership of their inheritance.
While some probate timelines are definite, such as the 90-day window for anyone to file a claim to the estate, the exact amount of time it takes to finalize the process varies and is not predetermined. It all depends on the unique circumstances of each case. You may be looking at several months or even years to get everything done.
Factors that could delay probate
Generally speaking, the larger an estate, the longer it may take to conclude probate because there may be so much to do. Settling existing debts, consolidating all estate assets and appraising them are some things that may take more time in a sizable estate.
The efficiency of the executor also matters. As the person responsible for acting on behalf of the estate, probate may take longer to conclude if they are lax with their duties. Other issues like executor misconduct, where the personal representative steals or misappropriates estate funds, can also considerably delay the process.
Lastly, disputes among the beneficiaries that may result in a will contest may also affect the amount of time it will take. Usually, the probate process cannot proceed until the court hears and determines a contest to a will.
Protecting your interests during probate
It is advisable to seek counsel in anticipation of these and other issues during probate to safeguard your inheritance. For instance, you ought to understand your legal options in case the executor is not discharging their duties diligently or if you are concerned about the amount of time it’s taking to close the estate.