When Should Wills Be Filed After Death?

By A.L. Kennedy

A will should be filed after death before the deadline set by your state's law. Often, these deadlines are several years after the date of death. By filing the will as soon as possible after a death, however, you may be able to substantially speed up the probate process. Consult an attorney in your state if you have questions about specific deadlines.

A will should be filed after death before the deadline set by your state's law. Often, these deadlines are several years after the date of death. By filing the will as soon as possible after a death, however, you may be able to substantially speed up the probate process. Consult an attorney in your state if you have questions about specific deadlines.

Deadlines

Most states only allow wills to be filed with a probate court for a certain amount of time after the death of the person who made the will, also known as the testator. These deadlines usually occur five or six years after the testator's death. After this time, the probate court will not accept a will, and distribute the testator's property according to the state's laws for people who die without making a will. Courts use these deadlines out of concern that a will that has waited that long for probate may be a forgery or be invalid in some other way.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Limitations and Penalties

Many probate courts have shorter limitation periods in which the will should be filed for probate. For instance, the state of Connecticut requires the person who has the original will either to file it with the probate court or to give it to the estate's executor to be filed within 30 days of the testator's death. If someone who has the will refuses to file it in time, he may face criminal penalties for stalling. The 30-day period is designed to keep the probate process moving quickly and smoothly.

Benefits of Filing Early

Filing the will as soon as possible after death and opening the probate estate quickly offer several benefits. For example, even brief probate cases take several months to complete, because the executor must allow the amount of time required by law for creditors to contact the estate. Since assets cannot be given out of the estate until all these deadlines have passed, filing the will soon after death brings the deadlines to a close more quickly and allows the beneficiaries to receive their share of the remaining assets that much sooner.

Will Contests

A will contest is a lawsuit that claims the will is not valid for some reason. Usually, the will contest seeks to prove that the testator was not mentally capable of making a will or that the testator made the will under threat of force, coercion, or because he was tricked. A will contest can extend probate for months or even years, depending on how complicated the claims are and whether or not the losing party appeals. Starting probate early helps get will contests over with so that the estate can be resolved.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How Soon Are Wills Executed After a Death?

References

Resources

Related articles

Are There Time Limits in Will Probate?

Like most fields of law, probate is riddled with court-imposed deadlines and structured timelines. Most are designed to keep the process moving along in a timely manner so an estate can close within a reasonable period of time. Others prevent creditors from harassing heirs and beneficiaries years after a loved one’s death. But even with these safeguards, the probate of a large, complicated estate can be a long, drawn-out process.

How Long Do I Have to Contest a Will in Texas?

Texas has six deadlines for contesting a will depending on the circumstances of the case, but things can be complicated by the fact that next of kin or the executor have four years from the testator’s date of death to submit his will for probate. Texas law requires that only named beneficiaries be given notice that a will is in probate. Heirs who are not mentioned in the will do not have to be notified and may not even know that the process has begun.

What Does it Mean to Contest a Will?

A will contest or will challenge occurs when someone files a lawsuit in court stating that he believes the will is invalid. Wills can be found invalid by courts for a number of reasons including that the will's maker was incompetent or forced to leave or not leave certain property to certain people, or that the will itself does not follow the state's laws for valid wills.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

How Long Does a Person Have to Contest a Will?

Most states give you a specific window of time in which to contest a will, and the clock starts ticking once a will is ...

Can You Contest a Will After Probate?

The probate process officially recognizes the will as valid. It also allows the executor to follow the will's ...

When to Probate a Will?

A will should be probated as soon as possible after the death of the person who made the will. However, most states ...

What's the Statute of Limitations for Contesting a Will in Georgia?

Georgia does not limit will challenges to beneficiaries and heirs. Those who are financially harmed by the will or who ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED