After a loved one dies, his or her estate must be settled. While most people want the settlement process to be done ASAP, probate can take what seems like forever — between 6 and 12 months, believe it or not. The time delays create unnecessary stress.
Six Reasons Probate Takes So Long
There are many reasons why probating a will takes so long. Here are six of the most common:
Lack of a will. When someone dies without a will — that is, “intestate” — the court will have to make a determination of who the rightful heirs are. Laws vary from state to state.
Paperwork. Managing probate required paperwork can be a monumental undertaking with structured timelines and court-imposed deadlines.
Complexity. Estates with numerous or complicated assets simply take longer to probate as there are more items to be accounted for and valued.
Probate court caseload. Most probate courts are dealing with high caseloads and limited staff.
Challenges to the will. Heirs, beneficiaries, and those, who thought they’d be beneficiaries, can object to and challenge the will’s terms and legality. While state law dictates how long they have to object, challenges to a will can add years and great expense to the process. Common challenges include that the testator was:
- Lacking testamentary capacity
- Subject to undue influence
- A victim of fraud
Creditor Notification. A will’s executor must notify the decedent’s creditors so they have time to submit claims for debts. This time period varies from state to state as well, but it is generally six to nine months.
The bottom line is that, while most state probate laws are designed to keep the process moving along in a timely manner, that’s more of a plan than a reality.
Simply Put, Avoiding Probate with a Trust Is Better
Simply put, having assets in a trust is often better. Administration generally only takes three to six months total , sometimes less, and usually the process is not tied up in court. As a result, beneficiaries get assets faster, costs are reduced, and stress levels are kept to a minimum.
Take Action Now
First, if you need help settling a probate estate, we can help you move the process along and remove some of the burden so you can move on with your life. Second, we can help you make sure you never burden your loved ones with a lengthy probate process. We would be happy to discuss with you whether a trust is suitable.
Nielsen Law PLLC provides family focused estate planning to individuals and families in Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, and the Central Texas area. For more information and to learn about our firm, please contact us.
If you’re curious, you can read about the history of intestacy, as well as its application in Great Britain, Canada and the United States in this article.