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How long will probate last?

After the death of a loved one, you have many things to deal with. You want to reach out to console family members, but you are dealing with your own grief as well. There are practical preparations, such as funeral plans, and you may have to deal with the doctors or others who assisted your loved one in the final moments of his or her life. Then, you can turn your attention to your loved one's estate.

If your family member had a simple will or left no plan at all, you can expect the estate to go through probate. This legal process involves verifying the ownership of the estate, the identity of the heirs and the claims of creditors. It is often a simple matter, but probate has a reputation for dragging on for months. If you are waiting for your inheritance, understanding what slows down probate may be valuable.

What's the hold up?

In many cases, a probate can be completed in a few months to a year, depending on the size and complexity of the estate. If your loved one took the time to make an estate plan, probate may go very quickly, especially if the plan includes a trust, which allows some assets to bypass the probate process altogether. However, even with a simple estate, some factors can delay the completion of the probate process, including the following:

  • When the executor of the estate lives a great distance from the attorney handling probate, it is difficult for the two to quickly deal with any problems that may arise.
  • If the executor or some beneficiaries live far from the Washington estate, it may also delay probate because the law requires original signatures on many documents.
  • The requirement for original signatures also prolongs probate when there are numerous beneficiaries since it takes much longer to track down more people to sign multiple documents.
  • It only takes one disagreeable beneficiary to bring probate to a halt by challenging the actions of the executor or hiring a separate attorney to question the process.
  • If someone decides to contest the will, a probate judge must rule on the challenge before probate can continue.
  • Without a will, probate may take longer because the court must make many more decisions.
  • The complexity of the estate can slow down probate, for example, if your loved one owned unusual or hard to value assets, owes large debts, or if the estate qualifies for federal taxes.

Keeping probate under one year long is always preferable, but it is not always possible. If you are anticipating your loved one's estate to involve any of the above complications, you may wish to reach out for legal assistance from an attorney who has experience in complex probates.

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To speak with an attorney at Gellner Law Group about estate planning, probate, trusts, wills or tax controversy, contact our law office in Kent, Washington, today. You can call 425-336-2908 or send us an email. We provide representation across the entire Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area.

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