By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
May 19, 2015
How Long Does the Probate or Administration of an Estate Take?
HAIMO: The amount of time that a probate or administration of an estate can take depends on the size and complexity of the estate. Some estates can be very small, and they can go through what’s called summary proceedings. Other estates can be fairly large. They can be subject to litigation, and there can be all sorts of complexities involved that may make it last for longer than a year.
The probate or administration of an estate refers to the process through which the affairs of a deceased person (known as the “decedent”) are settled. Usually, the focus of this process is distributing the decedent’s property to his or her heirs. Through probate, the law makes sure that the decedent’s assets are lawfully transferred to family and friends.
Estate Planning and Probate
On average, the probate process takes somewhere between six months and year and a half. However, a number of variables in this process have a significant effect on the length of probate.
The amount of planning the estate owner undertakes in his or her lifetime will directly impact the length of the probate process. For example, living trusts are often used in estate planning to transfer items from decedents to their heirs without requiring any probate at all—thus shortening the process quite a bit, if not eliminating it altogether.
Living trusts are one of many estate planning tools designed to make probate quicker, simpler, and less expensive for the decedent’s heirs.
Factors That Affect the Length of Probate
Smaller estates may avoid the lengthy formal probate process entirely by petitioning for “summary administration.” An estate may be eligible for summary administration if:
- The value of the probate estate is less than $75,000.
- The death occurred more than two years ago.
Summary administration is a much shorter process than a formal estate administration. The probate attorney who represents the heirs will file a petition with the courts. If accepted, the court will issue an order for the transfer of the decedent’s assets to their rightful heirs.
Another important part of the probate process involves settling the decedent’s open accounts with creditors. Until creditor claims are settled, the estate cannot be distributed to the heirs.
Creditors have a three month window in Florida to collect on an open account. During this period of time, the creditors must file any claims against the decedent in an attempt to recover their debt.
Sometimes the decedent’s assets need to be liquidated to satisfy a creditor claim. This can significantly lengthen the process, since it can take time to sell assets such as real estate.
The probate process must be at least three months long for the creditor claim period – and can take much longer if assets need to be liquidated in order to satisfy judgements.
If there is a dispute over a claim from a creditor or the legitimacy of the will, all parties involved will have an opportunity to settle this in court.
However, these disputes (like most legal conflicts) can take a very long time and can be very expensive. The probate process will be extended by any legal disputes, and thus the estate cannot be closed until all claims against the estate are settled.
A comprehensive estate plan can significantly reduce the length of the probate process, and correspondingly reduce if not eliminate the complexities that may arise as a result of probate. Contact us for expert estate planning consultation and experienced probate representation.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose
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