After a family member has died, you certainly need some time to grieve and remember. You may find it comforting to look through your relative's photo albums and discover hidden treasures in dresser drawers and on closet shelves. However, after time passes, you are ready to move on and return to some sense of normalcy. A large part of this process is clearing out the house and distributing your loved one's belongings.
However, until the estate has completed the probate process, everything may have to remain as it is. Until the court has validated the will, verified the identity of all heirs and paid off any outstanding debts, your family will remain in a holding pattern. You may be interested in knowing how long you must wait until the probate process is finished.
How long do I have to wait?
The length of probate depends on many factors. Even the most straightforward estate with a properly prepared will may take close to a year before the court is satisfied that all elements have achieved closure. Until then, you and other family members who are anticipating an inheritance, even a sentimental token, will likely have to wait.
While probate may seem long to you, other factors can make the process even more complicated, dragging it out indefinitely. You certainly see the news when celebrities die without making an estate plan and the protracted legal issues that follow. Just so, if your loved one has no will or other estate documents, the process may require more time.
Even more complications
Other factors that are potential obstacles to the smooth and efficient completion of probate include the following:
- An estate with uncommon assets that are difficult to value or sell may need significant time for appraisals and liquidation.
- An estate with worth above the allowed exemption for federal estate tax will require months of an additional wait while the executor prepares and submits tax forms for IRS approval.
- A personal representative who is incapable of managing the duties of administrating the estate is one of the most frequent reasons why probates last so long.
- A will that names many beneficiaries, especially if they live far away, requires extra time for all parties to reach agreements and sign appropriate documents.
- Beneficiaries who refuse to cooperate or get along during the probate process often require the executor to make frequent trips back to court for approval of each action.
- Heirs who contest the will can bring the process to a complete stop until the matter is resolved.
While some of these steps are out of your control, you may find that seeking legal counsel can protect your rights during the process. A Texas attorney can answer your questions, clarify any issues and represent your best interests throughout probate.