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Why does probate take so long?

On Behalf of | May 9, 2024 | Probate |

As you begin planning your estate, you might hear legal professionals advising you to bypass the legal process called probate at all costs. During this process, a court takes over the distribution of a person’s assets when they pass away. From validating the will to resolving debts and taxes, probate can become a significantly prolonged affair. It also opens the door to legal complexities, influencing many to structure their estate in a way that avoids this process.

Multiple steps and legal requirements

The probate process involves many steps that require thorough oversight. This starts with validating the deceased’s will, which alone can take a considerable amount of time. The court appoints an executor to manage the estate, which includes gathering all the person’s assets, paying off their debts and then distributing what remains to the rightful heirs. Each of these steps involves significant amounts of paperwork and requires various levels of court approval. Mistakes, omissions or challenges to the will can cause substantial delays, causing the process to drag on for months or even years. 

Complexity of the estate

The more assets you have, the more complicated the probate process will be. Each asset type requires a specific handling procedure during probate, whether business, real estate, stock portfolios, or personal property like art or collectibles. Sorting out these assets can take significant time, especially if they are not clearly accounted for in your will. 

Family disputes

It is not uncommon for family members or other beneficiaries to challenge the will or disagree on how the court should administer the assets. Resolving these takes a lot of time and can significantly deplete the estate’s resources, leaving even less to beneficiaries. 

When securing the future of your loved ones through estate planning, you might want to heed the professional advice telling you to steer clear of the probate process. Tools like living trusts, joint ownership and payable-on-death bank accounts can help ensure your assets reach your beneficiaries directly without probate court approval. Consider talking to an estate planning attorney who can guide you through options that fit your needs and circumstances.