How much time you have to submit a will for probate and to begin the probate process depends on the state in which the will is probated. Some states have strict laws while others have no time frames at all. However, there is usually no good reason to wait. The probate process becomes more difficult if you wait too long. Waiting can cause unnecessary additional court procedures later. Waiting also delays the transfer of title of assets from the deceased to her beneficiaries. Beneficiaries do not actually own their bequests until probate is completed.
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No Time Limits
Many states, including Florida, Oregon and Virginia, have no statutes of limitation for probating a will. If family members continue to pay property taxes and don’t try to transfer deeds of real estate, the government may never realize that a death has occurred and that title to the deceased’s property has not been legally transferred through the probate process. You should check with an attorney in the state where the will needs to be probated, however, to make sure it is safe to handle the estate this way.
Some states have a four-year limit for entering a will with the court for probate. This is the case in Texas. However, if you wait longer than four years in Texas, probate can still be accomplished. The procedure just becomes much more complicated.
Alabama has a five-year statute of limitations for probating a will. However, anybody who purchases estate assets in good faith during the first year after the testator’s death, expecting probate to occur to clear title for the sale, might be awarded clear title anyway. The purchaser would not be penalized for the family’s failure to probate the deceased’s will.
Other Time Limitations
Many states, such as New Jersey, will not admit a will for probate too soon. In New Jersey, a will cannot be accepted for probate until 10 days have passed since the surrogate court clerk received it. States usually implement these kinds of restrictions to allow interested parties a window of time in which to contest a will.
References & Resources
- Fortenberry Law Group, PLLC: Opening an Alabama Estate
- Texas Probate Web Site: Frequently Asked Questions About Steps to Take When Someone Dies
- Virginia Court Clerks’ Association: Probate in Virginia
- County of Union, New Jersey: Surrogate – Wills, Estates and Probate
- 1800Probate: Florida Probate – Probate in Florida
- Gruber & Associates, PC: Probate, Both Simple and Complex
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