The Average Probate Processing Times for Wills in Massachusetts

By Beverly Bird

The average time required for the probate process depends on everything going smoothly -- if there are any complications, the time frame can increase significantly. In Massachusetts, probate is usually completed within a year of the date of the testator’s death, though most of the work is generally accomplished within the first nine months. However, complex estates can take up to two and a half years or longer. Several factors are involved, each with their own deadlines.

Opening Probate

The overall process of opening probate can take up to eight weeks from the time the executor delivers the will to the probate court. A great deal of work is done during this time. The executor must make a comprehensive list of all assets and debts the testator left behind before a petition for probate can be filed. The court will require this information to open probate. Generally, the executor will not take his oath of office and receive his documentation to act on the estate’s behalf sooner than a month after first submitting the will for probate.

Case Management

When probate is opened, the court assigns the matter to a “track,” or estimated time frame for completion beginning from the date when the executor takes office. In Massachusetts, probate falls into the three- to six-month category. The court prefers that the entire process be completed by this time. If everything goes well and this deadline is met, probate can conceivably be completed within eight months from the time the court received the will if there are no complications or delays at all.

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Estate Taxes

Probate time may be extended by the IRS for larger estates when federal estate taxes are due. The executor is responsible for filing the return and paying the tax within nine months from the testator’s date of death. The IRS may or may not require an audit of the return. If it does not, it may issue a closing letter to the estate within six months. If the return is audited, however, the matter may not be resolved and a closing letter may not be issued for up to two years. Probate cannot be closed until the estate receives a closing letter from the IRS.

Will Contests

Will contests are usually the greatest cause of delay in probating a will. They are separate litigations involving discovery, depositions and a trial. Probate cannot be closed until the contest is resolved, either by a judge, a jury or a settlement between the estate and the person challenging the will. When the court receives an objection to a will, the case management track is automatically changed to the eight-month category. A notice for a pretrial conference is sent to all interested parties to begin the litigation and this conference may not even take place until 45 days after the first contest hearing.

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Time Limitations in California State Inheritance Laws

Many deadlines follow a person's death as his estate is being probated in California. Probate is the process by which courts make sure that a deceased person's debts are paid and property distributed to his heirs. Deadlines in this process must be satisfied in order for the process to proceed smoothly. Probate only applies if the combined value of the decedent's real and personal property are greater than $150,000 at the time of death. If the estate's assets are less than this, these deadlines are irrelevant.

How Long Does an Executor Have to Probate a Will in New York State?

An executor can invest as much time as is necessary to completely settle an estate in New York. However, if the executor assumes the office but does nothing toward meeting her responsibilities to the estate, then either the court, the beneficiaries or both will get involved to remove her from office. Some variables can affect the length of time for probate in New York, but an executor should complete the process within a year if there are no complications, or three years for a complex estate.

Probating Wills in Pennsylvania

Although probate has a reputation for being time-consuming and complicated, the entire process can be completed in Pennsylvania in as little as 3 to 6 months. Appearances in court can be limited to less than half an hour in the office of the Register of Wills. Executors are not required representation by an attorney, although it is a good practice to consult with a lawyer so you are sure you understand the laws.

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