How long does Probate take?
Well, the best answer any attorney can provide is it depends. We generally hesitate giving an exact timeframe because each situation is different and unexpected things may occur throughout the process that can either speed things up or slow them down. The Florida Bar does a good job of explaining some of the different situations that can occur. Probate can take anywhere from a month to a year or longer depending on the situation and type of probate case that is filed.
What are some things that can hold Probate up?
A number of things can hold probate up. Generally, uncooperative beneficiaries are one of the most common ways a probate case is held up. When dealing with uncooperative beneficiaries, we are required to follow necessary steps to ensure these beneficiaries are informed of what is happening during the probate process. This means we have to send each beneficiary a formal notice. This notice will also include a copy of the documents that were filed. It gives the beneficiaries 20 days to bring an objection before the court will move forward. As frustrating as it can be on a time restraint, it is a requirement and can slow things down.
Creditor periods are another one of those things that can slow probate down. If we are filing for a formal administration, then we have to publish a Notice to Creditors in the newspaper. This notice notifies all potential creditors that the estate is open and they are allowed to file a claim if one exists. Potential creditors have 3 months from the first date of publication to file a statement of claim in the estate. The Judge will make us wait 3 months before proceeding to the next step. It is one of those things that is written in the rules and cannot be changed.
What are some things you can do as the client to speed up the process?
It is important you provide as much information as possible. If there are other beneficiaries, we will need their full legal names and mailing addresses. A complete list of estate assets and their approximate values will also be helpful. If there is a Last Will and Testament, we will need the original. Generally, we pull the property information from the property appraiser’s website. If there is a contract for purchase, we recommend providing a copy of that. Information regarding bank accounts, other financial accounts, vehicles, other properties, etc. are all things a part of the decedent’s estate. If there is a public auction scheduled, it is important we know this information. If there is a scheduled closing date, we need to know. Oftentimes, clients schedule a closing date and have not even contacted a Probate attorney. It is unreasonable to call an attorney 4 weeks prior to closing and expect it to be done within that time-frame. We have to remember that probate is structured to be slow. Courts have to make sure all potential creditors and beneficiaries have been informed of the process and that all property is distributed fairly to the right people.
To learn more about how the general probate process works and what the purpose is, you can read one of our other blog posts here. To schedule a free consultation, please call us at 727-235-6461 or contact us through our website.
Payment of taxes and a decedent s debts are a major component of the process because transfers to beneficiaries can only occur after all this has been accomplished. And payment to creditors can take some time, depending on state law.