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Why does probate take so long?

On Behalf of | Feb 3, 2021 | Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts

If you expect the probate process with an estate to go quickly, you need to readjust your expectations — now.

Most estates pass rather slowly through probate, despite the best intentions of everyone involved. Naturally, if there’s a dispute among the heirs, the whole thing is likely to devolve into a complicated mess that’s difficult to sort — but there are plenty of ordinary things that also slow probate down.

The major reasons the probate process can be delayed

Aside from conflicts over an inheritance, there are many reasons that probate can be delayed:

  • The deceased’s will was hidden. Sometimes people squirrel away their wills and tell nobody where to find them. It can take weeks of combing through their paperwork to uncover the documents the executor needs to move forward.
  • An heir cannot be located. Before the estate can settle, all the heirs need to be notified. If an heir has lost touch with the rest of the family, there are several steps that have to be taken to find them before the estate can proceed.
  • There are a lot of unusual or valuable assets. Sometimes an executor will have to clean out a home, catalogue major collections and get appraisals before they can even think about dividing up the assets according to the will.
  • There are assets in another state. It may take multiple attorneys in different locations to coordinate their efforts to resolve property issues when the deceased has vacation homes or real estate in another part of the country.
  • There’s a business involved. If the deceased owned their own business, the taxes may be quite complicated to finish. That can really slow down probate.

Is there anything you can do to ease the process for your heirs?

Often, there are ways to eliminate the hassles that come with probate. Effective estate planning means looking at your goals and the options you have to meet them. An attorney can help you learn more.