Why Does Probate Take So Long?

Hi, this is Marc Herbert from Herbert Law office with the Question of the Week. This week, the question I’ve been getting a lot is why does probate court take so much time? Well, the first thing you have to understand is that probate court in California has three stages and each stage has a particular time frame. So long as you jump through all the right hoops in the right order, the time for probate can actually be as short as a year, sometimes less.

But if you miss a hoop in L.A. County, the court’s going to continue your case. Sometimes 90 days, sometimes 120 days, sometimes 180 days. And that obviously affects the timing of everything related to that probate. So the first stage should only take about 60 to 90 days. That’s where you file your petition. You give notice to the heirs and creditors.

You publish something in the newspaper and then you wait for your first court date. If everything is lined up perfectly and you jump through all those hoops, the person who filed the petition can be appointed as either the executor or if there’s a will or the administrator, if there’s no will. And that should take no more than 60 to 90 days.

But again, if you miss one little box on one little paragraph on one little page, the court’s going to extend that hearing for three or four months, sometimes more. The second stage is where you give notice to the government agencies. You get an appraisal on property, especially land. And if you have land in different counties or different states, you have to have several people doing those appraisals for the court.

We get to negotiate with creditors. We can arrange for the sale or transfer of the land. So normally the second stage takes about 5 to 9 months, but it can be much longer depending on how complex the estate is. Finally, the third stage is where you prepare a final accounting for the estate. That’s usually about 15 to 20 pages, plus a petition for distribution, which is usually another 10 to 15 pages.

And again, that third phase should only take about 60 to 90 days. But if there’s any objection by the heirs or beneficiaries or you miss one little box, the court’s going to extend those time frames beyond what should really happen. So a case that should take a year can easily go two years. Sometimes even three or four years.

So we’ve developed a three step process that saves our clients a lot of time, a lot of money and a lot of stress, so that the problem of probate is less of a problem for you. Luckily, there’s actually an easy solution to the problem of probate, which is to create your own estate plan. At Herbert Law office, we offer free consultations both for our probate court clients and our estate planning clients so we can discuss options to create or update your estate plan, or to get you through the probate process as quickly and easily as possible.

I hope this information has been helpful for you and we’ll talk to you soon.