After a loved one dies, their money and property must be distributed to the right people, either according to their will or the state’s default distribution scheme (found in its “intestacy” statute). While most people want the settlement process to be done as soon as possible, probate can take between 18 and 24 months.
Yes, you read that right. It can take anywhere between a year and a half to two years to resolve. The time delays create unnecessary stress, especially for families who need access to those accounts or property. Let’s delve into a bit of why probate can take so long.
5 Reasons Probate Takes So Long
There are many reasons why the probate process takes so long. Here are five of the most common:
Managing probate-required paperwork can be a monumental undertaking with structured timelines and court-imposed deadlines. If you’re trying to handle the paperwork all on your own without a lawyer to help you through the process, a significant amount of time can be added to the overall process.
Estates with numerous or complicated accounts or property simply take longer to probate, as there are more items to be accounted for and valued. If the deceased didn’t keep careful or organized records, a considerable amount of time can be spent tracking everything down, too.
3. Probate Court Case Load
As with other courts, most probate courts are dealing with a high volume of caseloads and have a limited amount of staff to push things through as quickly as anyone would want or expect.
4. Challenges to the Will
Heirs, beneficiaries, and those who thought they’d be beneficiaries, can object to and challenge the will’s instructions and legal requirements. While state law dictates the length of the time period during which they must object, will challenges can add years to the probate process.
Some of the most common challenges include assertions that the will maker was:
- Lacking testamentary capacity (i.e., lacking the legal or mental ability to make a will)
- Subjected to undue influence (wrongful pressure to do something they didn’t want to do)
- A victim of fraud (the entire will is fraudulent, fraudulently signed by another party, or the will maker was misled into signing the will)
5. Creditor Notification
The deceased person’s creditors must be notified of the deceased person’s passing and the probating of their estate, so they have time to submit any legal claims for debts. This time period also varies from state to state, but it is generally four 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, had the deceased person created a trust to hold their accounts and property, the long, complicated probate process could have been avoided. By creating and funding a trust, those accounts and property are no longer viewed as being owned by the deceased person and are not subject to the supervision of the court.
Their distribution is controlled by the instructions left in the trust agreement. Administering a trust instead of a probate is usually quicker – meaning that beneficiaries receive assets more quickly, costs are reduced, and stress levels are kept to a minimum.
Take Action Now
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. We can also help you make sure you never burden your loved ones the way you’ve been burdened. How? We’ll show you how to avoid probate with a trust. As an added convenience to our clients, we are able to meet via video conferencing if you prefer.
Contact The Browne Firm online or call (914) 290-5622 for the legal support you need during this time.