After the death of your loved one, you may be feeling many emotions. Even if your family member lived a long and full life, there is undoubtedly sorrow and loss with which to contend.
At the same time you are struggling to come to terms with the absence of your loved one, you are facing the uncertainty of the probate process. Perhaps your loved one left a simple will, or there was no plan at all. In either case, the long and often frustrating legal steps required to close his or her estate are often full of mystery and unpredictability. Like many, you may first want to know how long the process of probate will last.
What happens during probate?
Since every estate is different, state laws have many variables, and families have their own quirks and foibles, it is nearly impossible to say how long a particular probate will last. However, barring unforeseen circumstances, the typical probate may take about nine months to a year.
One reason why the process takes so long is because it allows for all legal and financial matters to settle. For example, your loved one may have owed money to numerous debtors. Probate gives those debtors a chance to claim what they can from the estate before the estate executor distributes the assets to you and other heirs. If your loved one had many debts, resolving these may extend probate beyond the typical length.
What factors may prolong probate?
Your loved one may have tried to simplify the probate process with a will, but if the stipulations in the will are overly complicated, probate may drag on, perhaps for years. Some common reasons why the closing of an estate may take longer include the following:
- Your loved one chose an executor who lives far away from the attorney's office, making it necessary to allow travel time to sign papers and complete documents.
- There are more than a few beneficiaries named in the will, or they live far apart from each other.
- Some of the beneficiaries do not get along with the executor.
- Your loved one's Texas estate qualifies for federal estate tax, requiring the executor to complete a tax return, which may add up to eight months to probate.
- The assets are complex, such as a business or fine art which may require valuation.
- The beneficiaries are quarrelsome or contest the will.
Heirs may not challenge the will on a whim but must have cause based on evidence that your loved one was unduly influenced, did not have the mental capacity to execute the will, did not follow legal regulations when signing the will or was the victim of fraud. A contest of the will could easily add years to probate.