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How long does probate take?

When someone passes away, his or her estate will generally go through probate. This process legitimizes the person's will (if there is one) and distributes the assets and liabilities of the estate.

Probate can be a frustrating, technical process and family members often wonder how long it will take. Unfortunately, there is no fixed timeline with regard to probate. However, there are elements that can make it shorter and elements that can extend it.

Factors that can shorten the probate process

  1. The probate process can be shorter when the decedent has set up trusts. Properties in certain trusts do not go through probate, which can make the process much easier to get through.
  2. Estate administrators can also shorten the probate process by completing various tasks sooner than is required. For instance, instead of taking the full 60 days to file a notice to heirs, representatives can do so more quickly.
  3. As noted in this article on probate in Tennessee, smaller estates can go through a simpler process if an estate is valued at $50,000 or less.

Factors that can extend probate

  1. Issues with a will can extend probate. If there are disputes over validity or if it takes a long time to find a person's will, then the probate process will take longer.
  2. Fighting among beneficiaries is a common reason why probate can drag on. If they argue over the distribution of the estate, for instance, then the legal process continues until such issues are resolved.
  3. Personal representatives who are slow or unable to resolve the many tasks associated with administering an estate can delay probate considerably. The longer it takes to locate assets, notify the appropriate parties and distribute the estate, the longer probate will take.

Generally speaking, it can take from about six months to a year to complete probate for a straightforward estate without any significant disputes. But again, there is no fixed timeline for how long probate can take. It will depend on numerous factors that vary from case to case.

If you have questions on ways you can shorten the probate process, then it can be wise to discuss with an attorney the various estate planning strategies that may allow you to do this.

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