How Long Is Probate?

POSTED ON: January 1, 2022

Probate is a legal process wherein a court oversees the settlement of an estate after the owner passes.

How Long Is Probate?

Yahoo Finance’s article entitled “How Long Does Probate Take?” gives us an overview of the main things you need to understand about the probate process, so you can prepare.

During probate, a judge determines the way in which to distribute assets to heirs. The court will also authenticate the will (if there is one) and appoint an executor or administrator of the estate to supervise the probate process. The Louisiana probate process will depend in large part on the type of estate the decedent had, the assets, debts family structure, and the decedent’s estate planning documents, if any.

If there is a will, after authenticating the decedent’s will and appointing an executor, the executor locates and assesses all the property owned by the deceased. If there are any debts, the executor uses estate assets to pay these. The remaining estate is then distributed to the heirs.

Often the probate process takes time to make certain that everything is done according to the law. As a result, it can take from a few months up to over a year. However, in many cases, with a good probate lawyer, the heirs can quickly get their assets quickly through what I call an “open and close” succession.  It just depends on the situation.  In any case, there’s a long list of variables that can contribute to the duration. A few of the common factors are discussed below.

Estate Size. An estate’s size in terms of voume and type of assets can contribute significantly to the time in probate.  However, Louisiana has a process that allows heirs to keep the estate out of probate called “Affidavit of Small Succession” for estates valued at $125,000 or less.  Read about it here: Affidavit of Small Succession in Louisiana

Multiple beneficiaries. If an estate has a number of heirs or legatees, it may gum up the works. Multiple heirs can slow down the probate proceedings because disputes can drag out an otherwise smooth legal process. Disagreements among family members or other heirs can result in delays or even a total halt.

No Will. If a person dies without a will, it means that there’s no guidance from the decedent. As a result, the court and executor have to work through the estate and distribution from scratch.

Will But No Independent Administration.  If the decedent had a will, but the will does not provide that the executor is an “Independent Executor”, then the executor may have to obtain special court authority to sell succession assets, unless the executor can obtain permission from the other heirs. If the executor has to petition the court, the process can take time and money, not just because the attorney hired by the executor has to prepare the petition the court for permission, but also because the proposed sale has to be advertised in the newspaper.

Debts. Taxes and debts are major factors in the time needed to close an estate. Creditors must be paid before the heirs can receive anything. They have a deadline to make a claim for money the estate owed. The longer it takes to pay these debts, the longer the delay in the probate process.

Taxes. Taxes on an estate also can take a while to process. If a federal estate tax return has to be filed, the estate must receive a closing letter from the IRS to close out the probate process. This can take up to six months.

I do my best to process probates as quickly as possible.  I was recently told by a client who had been involved in several successions, that the process that I help them through was the fastest he had ever seen.  I try to realistically give my clients an idea of how long the process will take before we start.  if you want to learn more about your particluar situation, BOOK A CALL with me, Ted Vicknair, Board Certified Estate Planning and Administration Specialist, Board Certified Tax Law Specialist, and CPA to learn more about esate planning and asset protection.

If you want to learn more about estate plannign topics, read these articles: Do Gifts Count Toward Estate Taxes? and Do You Need an Estate Plan or Will? and Is It Important to Have a Power of Attorney? and How Much can You Inherit and Not Pay Taxes?

Reference: Yahoo Finance (Sep. 27, 2021) “How Long Does Probate Take?”


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