How Long Does Probate Take in California?

How Long Does Probate Take - Probate Attorney Palmdale CA

Probate can be a huge headache and has a reputation for lasting forever. But exactly how long does probate take in California? While the average length of time it takes for an estate to be processed through probate is about nine months, this can vary widely depending on several factors. Some estates can be processed in a few weeks or months, while others end up taking years to finish.

Below, we discuss what to expect with probate as well as some of things can slow down the process.

Why Is Probate Such a Time-Intensive Process?

Let’s assume that you’re dealing with a moderately sized estate. The executor of the estate must wait until after the funeral to begin the probate process. After that, the executor is responsible for locating all of the deceased’s assets, securing those assets, contacting the deceased’s creditors, making sure they’re current on their tax burden, and only then can they begin the process of distributing the estate to their heirs.

While that may not seem like a lot, each of these steps requires the executor comb through paperwork, go through tax returns, go through bank statements, and locate all of the descendant’s assets. It is a time-consuming and tedious process. There is a lot of paperwork involved. There are deadlines that must be met. For most executors, it’s in their best interest to enlist the help of an estate planning attorney who can help avoid unnecessary delays.

What Can Delay the Probate Process?

There are a number of circumstances that can delay the efficient processing of an estate in probate:

There Are More Than a Few Beneficiaries

Even when everything goes well with the documentation and paying outstanding debts to creditors and the state, the number of beneficiaries can slow down the process of distributing assets to heirs. The more beneficiaries there are, the slower the process will go. Probate will also drag on if you have to communicate across state lines.

In addition, the more beneficiaries there are, the greater the likelihood that some dispute will arise over the distribution or management of the estate. These beneficiaries can, in fact, hire their own attorneys to monitor the probate process. If they sense anything is amiss, they can file motions that require a court decision in order to proceed.

There Are Problems With the Will

Beneficiaries are well within their rights to contest a will. Very rarely, however, will the court rule in their favor. They must be able to show that the deceased was not of sound mind or the will was otherwise coerced. If one beneficiary contests the will, you can expect major delays in the proceedings.

There Is No Will

If there is no will, then the first order of business will be for one party to petition the court to act as executor of the estate. If there are multiple parties interested, the court must render a decision based on their qualifications. Then, once debts are settled, the process for distributing assets is controlled by an algorithm known as intestate succession. Each step in the probate process will take longer when there is no will or no legal will (if the last will and testament has been invalidated).

There Are Estate Taxes

If the estate owes taxes, paperwork will need to be filed with the IRS and the IRS will need to respond before the estate can be closed. The IRS takes anywhere from six to eight months to respond.

There Are Unusual Assets

Not all assets are cut and dry. In some cases, the deceased owned a percentage of a business or still owed money on a piece of real estate that they purchased. In that case, the executor will be left distributing equity in a property or business venture. This can be very complicated and might require the work of an appraiser.

Can Probate Be Avoided?

Sometimes. You can avoid the probate process if the descendant set up a living trust with which to distribute their assets when they died or some other legal means to get assets to their heirs that do not require court oversight. These, however, must be set up prior to the descendant’s death.

Or if the deceased did not have an abundant amount of property and their most valuable property was their real estate which was owned jointly by a spouse, it may be possible to streamline the process of distributing property.