© 2013 Robert L. Shepard, Professional Law Corporation
How long does Probate take to complete?
Each estate is different depending on the complexity but there are certain guidelines. Creditors have a minimum of four months to file creditor claims once the probate petition is filed. In my experience, a very fast probate takes nine months, assuming the assets are well organized and there are no challenges. Larger estates always take longer, up to several years. If a will contest exists, then the probate will continue until the challenge is resolved. Extreme cases can go on for a decade.
During the probate process, nobody has access to any of the assets until an executor is named. When a will contest is involved, it is often this very issue which is fought over. Even once an Executor is named, only they have access to the probate estate, and they may only use it for purposes of completing the probate process. If they distribute any assets to anyone before the judge approves the final process, even if the person being distributed to is the ultimate beneficiary of that property, then the Executor may be held personally liable. The probate assets do not become the property of the beneficiaries until the probate process is complete and the judge approves the final distribution. Who has not lived in a neighborhood where a house sits empty for years while the heirs fight it out in probate court. Probate is easily avoided with proper estate planning, so do not let this happen to your house.