How Long Does Probate Take? A State Comparison

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What Is Probate?

Probate” means proof.  In the legal context, this means proof that the decedent’s will is legally valid and enforceable. During probate, the probate court determines whether a will is valid.  It also oversees the distribution of assets to specified individuals and beneficiaries, the payment of death taxes, appraisal, and the payment of probate costs such as lawyers’ fees, court fees, executor fees, and administrative costs. If the decedent did not have a will or has property that is not accounted for in the will, the probate court will also ensure that property is distributed according to state intestacy laws.

All of these steps can take quite some time.

How Long Does Probate Take?

In some states probate could take from one to three years, depending on state law, the complexity of the estate, and the filing of taxes. In others, it may take only a few months. Here is a summary of the timing for some state probate courts:

How Long Do Creditors Have to File a Claim Against the Estate?

Creditors’ claims must be accepted or rejected within 30 days in Texas. New York has strict statutes of limitations requiring creditors to make their claims or forfeit the money owed. In California, creditors must submit their claims within four months, and in Illinois they have six months. In Massachusetts creditors have a full year to submit a claim.

Should I Consult a Lawyer for My Probate Concerns?

If you are a beneficiary under a will or intestate estate, or would like to contest the will of a loved one, a probate lawyer can help. Because timing is very important, and state probate laws vary, a lawyer will be able to help you through this process.

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Last Modified: 08-21-2014 10:30 PM PDT

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