Probate Timeline

Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies. The purpose of probate is to prevent fraud after someone’s death.  It’s a way to freeze the estate until a judge determines that the Will is valid, that all the relevant people have been notified, that all the property in the estate has been identified and appraised,  that the creditors and taxes have been paid. The probate process is initiated in the county of the decedent’s legal residence at death. If the estate is intestate (with no valid Will), the court determines who should receive the decedent’s property. Then the probate court issues an Order to distribute the inheritance assets, and the estate is closed.

The probate timeline depends on such factors as estate size, type of assets owned, form of ownership, tax issues, complexity of creditors’ claims, locating heirs/beneficiaries, marital property issues, and whether a business is involved. The length of time needed to complete a probate estate depends on the size and complexity of the estate, local rules, and schedule of the probate court. Certain states, such as New York, usually take longer. Below is a standard timeline for a typical estate administration.

The Probate Timeline:

– Prepare & File Petition for Probate — [1-2 Months]
– Court Hearing on Petition for Probate — [2-3 months]
– Letters of Administration, Orders for Probate, Duties and Liabilities — [2-4 months]
– Issue Bond (if ordered) — [2-4 months]
– Notice to Creditors — [2-4 months]
– Notice to Dept. of Health Services — [4-8 months]
– Pay State & Federal Taxes (if necessary) — [6-12 months]
– Allow or Reject Creditor Claims — [6-12 months]
– Notice to Franchise Tax Board (if heir is out of state) — [6-12 months]
– Claim of Exemption (if assets transfer to a minor) — [6-14 months]
– Tax Clearance Letters — [7-15 months]
– File Petition for Final Distribution & Accounting — [8-16 months]
– Hearing on Petition for Final Distribution & Accounting — [8-16 months]
– Order Approving Final Distribution & Accounting — [8-16 months]
– Distribution of Assets to Heirs — [9-17 months]
– Final Discharge Order — [9-18 months]
– Final Distribution of Estate Funds to Heirs — [9-18 months]

This is an estimate of the probate process timeline.  The complexity of the estate, the determinability and number of heirs to the estate, and the law that governs the estate are factors that affect when the heirs receive their final distribution. There can be all sorts of surprises, mysteries and unexpected occurrences that can arise during a probate such as will contests, proceedings to remove the executor for breach of fiduciary duty, and litigation claims filed by creditors.  These issues can become very emotional and sensitive creating delays in settling and closing of the estate.