How Long Do You Have to Probate a Will?

By Beverly Bird

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.

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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.

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How Long Does One Have to Probate a Will?

References

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How Long Does It Take for a New Jersey Inheritance Settlement?

If someone names you as a beneficiary in a New Jersey will, plan on waiting a minimum of nine months before you receive the bequest. The executor of the estate -- the person named in the will to oversee the probate process -- must complete several court-ordered procedures before the estate can settle. If the executor is efficient and manages her time well, she might close the estate immediately after statutory time frames. However, most settlements occur about a year after the executor enters the will for probate. Large estates that involve payment of estate taxes might take longer.

How to Find Out If Someone Left a Will for Probate

A will is a written document that specifies how a person wishes his estate to be divided. After the testator dies, the will is commonly subject to court proceedings known as probate. Relatives and other potential heirs may find it necessary to locate a will, especially when challenging or questioning the estate proceedings; others often find wills useful when researching family trees. Wills and estate proceedings are typically filed in the probate court of the county or counties in which the deceased had a connection, such as residence or property holdings.

How to Get a Copy of a Probated Will

A copy of a probated will is useful for a variety of reasons, including family tree research, property title research, and preparing for a legal challenge to the original probate proceedings. Once a will has been through probate -- the legal proceeding to settle the estate -- the will is considered public record. You can get a copy of a probated will by visiting the court where probate occurred.

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