When a loved one dies, their money and property has to be distributed to the appropriate people according to the will, or the state’s laws if a will is not in place.
Even if someone is taking charge of the probate process and keeping up with all the details and requirements, it can still take a minimum of 12 months and in some cases even stretches out over years. Yes – years! These types of delays can cause undue stress on families already dealing with grief and loss and who may need access to those accounts or property in order to continue on with their lives.
Why Does Probate Take So Long?
Paperwork. Even for a professional, the probate-required paperwork can be a massive undertaking with specific timelines and court-imposed deadlines.
Complexity. Estates with numerous or complicated accounts or property will necessarily take longer to probate since there are more items to be accounted for, appraised, etc. all of which must be provided to the court.
Probate court caseload. Most probate courts are dealing with high caseloads and limited staff.
Challenges to the will. Heirs, beneficiaries, and those who thought they’d be heirs and beneficiaries, can object to and challenge the will’s instructions and legal requirements. Each state’s laws determine the length of the time period during which they can object, that process can extend the overall probate process by months if not years. 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)
- Subject to undue influence (wrongful pressure to do something they didn’t want to do)
- A victim of fraud
Creditor Notification. The deceased person’s creditors must be notified of their 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.
So, while most state probate laws are designed to keep the process moving along in a timely manner, remember that “timely” is relative and things outside of your control can interfere with that plan.
Avoid Probate Delays with a Trust
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 since it does not have to go through the court system. This means beneficiaries receive assets more quickly, costs are reduced, the estate is kept private (rather than in public probate court) and stress levels are kept to a minimum.
Take Action Now
If you’re dealing with settling a probate estate and are feeling overwhelmed, please give Davis Law Group a call. We can help you move the process along and remove some of the burden from you so that you can move on with your life and take care of yourself and your family. We can also help ensure that you never burden your loved ones the way you’ve been burdened by walking you through an estate plan which includes a trust. Contact us today – we are happy to meet with you at your convenience in person, via phone or video call.