One of the most common worries that families have about the probate and estate administration process is time. Whether or not you are the executor of your loved one’s will, you may wonder and stress about how long it will take.
It is true that probate can take time. The average probate can take about one year to complete. Even so, it is an important process. Worrying about time is understandable, but it is often more helpful to understand what variables can delay probate from being completed.
Four significant factors that can delay probate
First, it is important to note that every case – just like every family – is different. Not all of these delaying factors might impact your case, but these are some of the most common ones that families encounter:
- The estate plan: Issues with a loved one’s plan can frequently delay probate. For example, if your loved one has more than one will, it can take time for the probate court to determine which one is valid.
- The process itself: Certain aspects of California’s probate process do contribute to how long the process takes. There are certain steps that the executor or personal representative must complete, including filing and publishing notices as well as the 120-day waiting period after the estate is opened for creditor claims.
- Locations: This does not necessarily refer to the location of the probate court. Probate can take longer if your loved one owned several real estate properties in different states, (which, in turn, might require separate probate filings). Additionally, another delaying factor can be the location of all the beneficiaries. If they live across the country, or even across California, the process can take longer.
- Assets: Did your loved one hold intellectual property rights? Or did they have expensive collectibles? Valuing these complex assets properly can take time, but it is critical to do it right.
Several other factors can prolong the probate process. However, recent events outside of the court have impacted the process as well.
What about outside circumstances?
It is uncommon for circumstances outside of your family, the estate plan or the court to influence how long probate might take. However, this last year was nothing but uncommon.
Concerns over probate delays have only increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With shutdowns and closures of courts across the state, delays have only increased in the last year. Restrictions are slowly easing, but it will likely take California probate courts time to catch up.
It is natural that families want to resolve probate and move forward as quickly as possible. And there is no doubt that it is stressful to navigate probate while grieving a loved one, but understanding the factors that can delay probate can help families feel more prepared to handle this process.