How Long Do You Have to Probate a Will?

by Beverly Bird
    Probate is almost always filed in the decedent's home state.

    Probate is almost always filed in the decedent's home state.

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    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.

    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.

    Four Years

    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.

    Five Years

    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.

    About the Author

    Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.

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