The death of a loved one is a heavy time, and sometimes the weight can become a burden. While the funeral and celebrations of a person's life may give you some sense of relief, the process of finalizing your family member's estate may drag out your ability to find closure, preventing you from truly moving forward.
A question many want to know when dealing with probate is how long the process will last. You may be surprised at how much time it takes to tie up the loose ends of your loved one's financial life until you consider how many loose ends there may be.
What factors may delay the probate process?
Probate is the legal process during which your loved one's personal representative addresses any bills or other obligations your loved one left behind. Then the representative may distribute your family member's belongings according to a will or the laws of Texas. If you are the personal representative, this will be your job. The amount of time it will take depends on many factors, for example:
- How far away from the probate attorney do you live? Probate documents often require original signatures, which may be delayed if you have to travel to sign them.
- How many beneficiaries are there? As with any process where decisions and agreements are necessary, multiple recipients may complicate probate, especially if they insist on disputing the will or taking legal action against everything the personal representative decides.
- Where do the beneficiaries live? Again, probate may be delayed as documents requiring multiple signatures travel from person to person.
- Do estate or inheritance taxes apply? If your loved one lived in a state that applies these taxes, probate might stall while waiting for the appropriate tax agencies to respond to the filing of the estate tax return.
- How complicated is the estate? If your loved one had a car, a house and a bank account, probate should go quickly. However, if the property includes a family business, real estate in other parts of the country or other complex assets, you and your fellow beneficiaries can expect probate to drag on a bit longer.
Of course, if your loved one didn't have a will or other estate plan, the process may go on many additional months while the probate court values and verifies the ownership of the estate and the validity of the beneficiaries.
While the process may seem long and complicated, probate is vital to ensuring the respect and legitimate handling of your loved one's assets and liabilities. You may have many questions about the probate of your loved one's estate, and a dedicated estate planning attorney can assist you in finding the answers.