Timeframe for Probating a Will

By Ciele Edwards

Probate exists not only to simplify the process of distributing the assets of a deceased person, known as the decedent, but also to ensure that creditors receive the payments to which they are entitled from the decedent's estate. A personal representative, also known as an executor, works with the probate court to distribute assets according to the decedent's wishes. State laws dictate how long an estate can remain in probate.

Probate exists not only to simplify the process of distributing the assets of a deceased person, known as the decedent, but also to ensure that creditors receive the payments to which they are entitled from the decedent's estate. A personal representative, also known as an executor, works with the probate court to distribute assets according to the decedent's wishes. State laws dictate how long an estate can remain in probate.

Time Frame

Each state has its own probate guidelines that determine how long a given estate can remain in probate. For example, according to the Oregon State Bar, the average probate case in Oregon takes anywhere from six to nine months. The State Bar of Wisconsin, however, notes that a Wisconsin probate case can take up to two years and sometimes longer.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Contributing Factors

Factors other than state laws influence the length of time an estate remains in probate. In general, larger estates remain in probate longer than smaller ones because the court and the executor need more time to distribute the ample assets of a large estate. A small estate can take longer in probate, however, if complex issues arise during the asset distribution process, such as a family member contesting the validity of the deceased's will.

Considerations

While most estates enter probate, not all do. Probate simplifies the property transfer process, ensuring that major assets, such as a home or car, are transferred into the beneficiaries' names from that of the deceased. If the deceased left behind no large assets, probate may not be necessary. Smaller assets that lack a title, such as jewelry or other personal belongings, can be transferred to the decedent's heirs without the court's aid.

Creditor Claims

The executor must notify the decedent's creditors of her death. This gives them the opportunity to file payment claims with the probate court. Just because the probate case is still open, however, does not mean that creditors can file claims at any time. State laws vary, but some states stipulate that creditor claims are only valid for a certain period of time. Oregon, for example, gives creditors a maximum of four months to file payment claims against the deceased's estate.

Reopening Probate

After the court pays off the deceased's creditors and distributes his assets, it closes the probate case. In some cases, however, an individual can petition the court to reopen the probate case. Reopening a closed probate case is not common, but can occur if additional assets were discovered after the probate case closed or if any assets the probate court distributed were titled improperly. State laws vary regarding the requirements for reopening a probate case, but, in general, the case will remain open only long enough to address the new assets or errors before closing a second time.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Probating a Will & Bills

References

Resources

Related articles

What Are the Protocols of Executor of a Will in the State of Florida?

Probate is the process of winding up a deceased's financial responsibilities and transferring legal ownership of her property to new owners. An executor, called a personal representative in Florida, is appointed by the probate division of the Circuit Court to stand in for the deceased by paying creditors and taxes and distributing all personal and real property to the heirs named in the will, or as identified by state statute, in the event there is no will. All duties are detailed in Chapter 733, Florida Statutes, including ethical requirements by which the personal representative must abide.

Next of Kin Rights vs. Executor of the Will

An executor has many responsibilities, and most of those relate to the next of kin of the decedent. The closest living relatives of the decedent often have the most to inherit from a decedent’s estate and as a result can be greatly affected by how the executor carries out his duties. However, the obligations of the executor to the next of kin must be balanced against the executor’s responsibility to fulfill all probate requirements, which may vary by state.

How Long Does an Executor of a Will Have to Settle an Estate?

An executor has certain responsibilities and requirements he must meet before settling, or closing, an estate. If he manages the estate improperly and distributes assets before settling with creditors and paying taxes, he could be held personally liable for monies owed. While the probate process usually takes six months to a year, it can take longer if the executor delays his duties or if the estate is complicated.

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

Related articles

What Are Ancillary Probate Proceedings Concerning a Will?

Your will leaves directions about how you want your property to be distributed upon your death, but property ...

Probating an Unsupervised Estate in Michigan

Probate is the process of settling the estate of a deceased person, who is known as a decedent. In Michigan, ...

Oregon Small Estate Laws

If a person in Oregon dies and leaves behind an estate that qualifies as "small" under state law, his ...

Newly Discovered Assets After the Close of Probate

A decedent's assets may be found after the estate executor has submitted his final accounting to the probate court and ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED