In a perfect world, you’d know exactly what you’re getting into when the probate process begins. However, there is no such thing as a “typical” probate process. There are times when everything goes as planned, as well as times when one complication after the next moves to the forefront.
If you’re involved with the probate process, maybe because you’re the administrator of the estate, it’s critical to understand what to expect and what you’re responsible for.
The first step in the process is always the same: This is when the executor presents the will to the probate court. From there, within the first one to four months, the following happens:
- Proving the validity of the will
- Identifying all heirs
- Issuing of documents, including orders for probate, letters testamentary and letters of administration
If everything checks out here, it’s time to notify creditors and pay bills and taxes. This typically includes family allowances, estate administration costs, money due to creditors and all applicable taxes.
As the process comes to a close, a petition for final distribution and accounting is filed. If everything is approved, the distribution of assets to heirs brings probate to a conclusion.
So, how long does it take?
The length of time for probate to reach completion depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to:
- Size and value of the estate
- The number of and amount of debts and taxes to pay
- Any issues related to paying taxes and debts
- The number of beneficiaries
- If there is a will contest
Generally speaking, you should plan for the probate process to take up to 24 months. It may wrap up quicker than this, but planning for two years will put you in the right frame of mind.
Even when everything goes smoothly, you may have questions during the probate process. And if something goes wrong, such as a disgruntled family member contesting the will, things will quickly become more complex.
Understanding the basics of probate is a good start. From there, learn more about your legal rights in Florida, based on your role in the process. Finally, consult with an estate planning attorney who can answer your questions, provide guidance and help you avoid unnecessary complications.
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