Why Does Probate Take So Long (and What Can You Do to Speed It Up)?
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
April 22, 2021
Even if you make a last will and testament, your estate will still go through probate, which is the court-supervised process of authenticating the will.
Probate includes locating and determining the value of the deceased person’s (decedent’s) assets, paying their final bills and taxes, and distributing the remainder of the estate to its rightful beneficiaries.
Probate is a notoriously lengthy process, and can potentially leave your heirs under financial strain for months — or even years — while the courts validate your will.
Fortunately, good estate planning can speed up the probate process, making the execution of your will as timely and painless as possible.
How Long Can I Expect Probate to Last?
The short answer to this question is that it depends. Estate planning attorneys are generally hesitant to give an exact timeframe, as each situation is different and unexpected things can happen during the probate process.
As a general range, probate can take as little as four months in Florida and well over a year depending on the complexities and type of probate case.
What Can Hold Probate Up?
Every probate case is different, and can be sped up or slowed down by a number of factors, some of which cannot be predicted.
In general, the following factors can hold up the probate process:
Uncooperative beneficiaries. If beneficiaries fail to come forward and cooperate with the execution of the will, your attorney’s office must take the following steps to ensure beneficiaries are notified of what is happening:
- A formal notice must be sent, which includes a copy of the documents filed.
- The beneficiary must formally acknowledge receipt of the notice
- The court must wait 20 days before moving forward, in order for the beneficiaries to file an objection
Creditor Periods. Your attorney must publish a Notice to Creditors in the newspapers. This notice effectively tells all creditors that the estate is open, and allows them to file a claim if one exists. Potential creditors have three months to file a claim, and the court cannot move forward until this period elapses.
What Can I Do to Speed Probate Up?
In order to keep your will’s probate period at a minimum, you should provide as much information as possible to your estate attorney. Further, the beneficiaries can speed the process up by maintaining an active contact with your attorney’s office.
This information contains (but is not limited to):
- Full legal names and mailing addresses of all beneficiaries
- Original copy of the Last Will and Testament
- Complete list of the estate assets and their approximate values
- Schedule of a public auction or estate sale, if one is to be held
- If the decedent’s real estate is to be sold, a scheduled closing date
Unfortunately, the probate process is, to some extent, designed to be slow. All potential beneficiaries and creditors must be allowed time to step up and file any claims or objections prior to the execution of your will.
However, you can speed up probate by ensuring that your estate plan is thorough. Your heirs can also speed up the process by remaining in active contact with the estate attorney’s office. Alternatively, there are also ways to have specific parts of your estate completely skip probate.
Interested in learning more? Get in touch with our offices.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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