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.

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.

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.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

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
Florida Probate Court Laws of the Deceased

References

Resources

Related articles

Can an Executor of an Estate File Bankruptcy on Behalf of the Deceased in the State of Iowa?

One role of an executor of a deceased person’s estate is to receive creditor claims and pay the creditors before distributing any remaining assets to the estate’s beneficiaries. However, a deceased person can leave behind more debts than assets. In such cases, an Iowa court can declare the estate to be insolvent. Then, the executor can pay some creditors while others may remain unpaid.

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.

Can an Estate Be Sued?

Estates, which are made of the assets of the decedent, are considered a legal entity under state law. This legal entity is designed to conclude the decedent's financial affairs and transfer his property to his beneficiaries and heirs. State law governs estate and litigation rules; therefore, it is important to seek the advice of legal counsel in order to comply with any special rules. For example, in response to the recent foreclosure epidemic, Wyoming recently passed a law governing the foreclosure process when the homeowner has died.

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

Related articles

Probating a Will & Bills

When an individual dies, the probate court in his county takes possession of his estate. The will's executor then works ...

Can I Decline Probate?

“Probate” is a term used to describe the legal process of distributing the estate of a deceased individual, and it ...

What Are the Requirements for Settling an Inheritance?

The probate process is designed to determine the disposition of property left behind when someone dies. The local ...

When Will Heirs Receive an Inheritance After Probate?

Probate is the process by which a court authenticates an individual's will, and grants a personal representative the ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED