How Soon Must a Will Be Probated After Death?

By Anna Assad

A will is probated to legally appoint the executor named in the document and settle the affairs of the deceased person. Once a will has been probated, the executor is given the legal authority to access, transfer and sell the assets of the estate as directed by the will's provisions. Some states have deadlines for probate after a person's death, but the limits vary by area.


The executor accounts for the estate's assets, handles the actual transfer or sale of assets and accounts for his actions to the court during probate proceedings. Legally enforceable final debts must be paid out of the estate, and the executor is given the ability to access accounts that belonged to the deceased person, like checking accounts, in order to pay bills and protect assets. Probate is often started as soon as possible after the person dies because situations that threaten the estate's assets may arise, like an overdue mortgage on a home the person owed. Some states require the filing of an existing will of a deceased person even if the will is not going to be probated, but deadlines vary by state.


The proposed executor has a number of activities to perform after the petition has been filed for the will to be probated. All of the deceased person's heirs must be located and notified of the proceedings. Creditors with a claim to the estate are notified by the executor and she must prepare a detailed inventory all debts, assets, items and income of the deceased person. Probate may be prolonged if the executor cannot locate heirs or account for all assets of the estate. The executor receives Letters Testamentary, a document proving she has the authority to control the estate, after the initial probate proceedings are completed.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan


The heirs of the estate have the right to contest the validity of the will once probate proceedings are started. A will contest may extend the amount of time needed to probate the will, as hearings on the matter and a trial may be needed. While some state have laws dictating how soon a will must be offered for probate after the person's death -- like four years in Texas -- the length of the probate proceedings is generally not limited by state statutes.


A will may be offered for probate even after the time to legally probate the will under state laws has passed if the reason for the delay is acceptable in probate court. Some states allow late probate if the delay is not the fault of the person filing, like when a will is being hidden or withheld by another person. A late probate filing to clear up questions surrounding the legal ownership of an estate asset may be permitted. However, the court may not appoint an executor during probate proceedings commenced after the state deadline.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How Long Does it Take to Probate a Will?


Related articles

Can the Executor of an Estate Be Held Responsible if the House Goes Into Foreclosure?

When a testator, the person making a will, names a trusted friend or family member as executor of her will, she often grants powers that are broad in authority. As long as the executor is acting within those powers and not in a self-serving or detrimental manner, a court may fail to find any wrongdoing on the part of the executor when estate property goes into foreclosure.

When to Notify the Executor of a Will

Called a personal representative in some states, the executor named in a will assumes responsibility for administering the decedent's estate after formal appointment by the probate court. The executor should be notified as soon as possible after the death of the decedent. The role of executor entails great responsibility, as this person is entrusted with paying the decedent's debts and taxes, managing assets and ensuring those assets eventually pass to the rightful beneficiaries.

What Happens When the Executor of the Will Steals the Money?

Estate beneficiaries must move quickly if the estate executor is stealing. State laws set a window during which heirs can take action against an estate executor. A will executor is responsible for managing a deceased's person's estate, and she is named in the will itself by the deceased person.

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

Related articles

What Are the Duties of the Executor of a Last Will & Testament?

An executor is the individual who oversees and settles the estate of a deceased person. The will of the deceased person ...

Can an Executor Probate a Will Without a Lawyer?

A will must be probated and an executor must be appointed before the assets of a deceased person can be legally ...

Are Last Wills & Testaments Public Information?

A last will and testament typically becomes public information once the person is deceased and probate has been ...

How to Decline Being a Will Executor After a Death

An executor oversees the estate of a deceased person and handles her final financial affairs. Acting as an executor ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED