How Long Does Probate Take? A Simple Guide to a Complex Question


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“How long does probate take?” is one of the most common questions a probate attorney at Klosek Law Offices hears. The short answer is that California’s probate process is usually complete within nine months to a year, as long as there are no complications. 


The comprehensive answer depends on how complex the estate plan is and the state of the deceased’s financial affairs. Every probate matter is different, and some take several years to complete. Given the delays and uncertainties created by covid-19, probating an estate nowadays is taking even longer, given that court staff are working remotely and the courts are not providing access to the public. 


Why Does the Probate Proceeding Take a Long Time? 


The executor or administrator may not begin to probate an estate until after the funeral. The representative of the estate must notify the deceased’s creditors and debtors of the death. The executor will need to locate and secure all assets, including real estate, personal belongings, and bank accounts, so no one removes anything without permission.


The probate lawyer, administrator of the estate, or their duly appointed personal representative must establish the deceased’s financial position. The probate lawyer will then request a tax return to see whether any taxes are outstanding. The attorney must ensure that the IRS and creditors receive any monies due to them before distributing the remainder of the estate to the heirs. 


The amount of time it takes depends entirely on the complexity of the estate. 


Why Might Cause Delays? 


Probate may take longer if: 


  • There are several beneficiaries: Dividing an estate equitably between three heirs is simple, but each heir after that slows the process down. The administrator must find each heir, confirm their details, and, in some cases, track down their descendants. 
  • Challenges to the will: Beneficiaries may contest the will to secure a more significant portion. Such claims will slow the proceedings down, whether upheld or not. 
  • The person dies intestate: Formal probate where no will is present is a prolonged process. The appointed executor must repay the deceased’s creditors. However, it becomes challenging to determine intestate succession where there are several parties claiming rights. 
  • There are outstanding estate taxes: The administrator must file the relevant paperwork with the IRS, and it could take between six to eight months for the IRS to wrap things up. 
  • Assets are slightly unusual: For example, if the deceased was a part-owner of a business or property that the executor cannot sell. 
  • Real Property needs to be sold: If the decedent died with real estate, and it needs to be sold, the administrator or executor must follow special rules, including providing a notice of proposed action to all the heirs which details the terms of the proposed sale of the real property. If anyone objects to the sale of the real property, then the sale of the real property is subject to court confirmation, which requires a separate hearing and adds time to the probate process. 


Is it Always Necessary to Head to Probate Court? 


There are instances where state law makes the probate process unnecessary. If the deceased set up a living trust before their death, the trust will handle all distributions. 


In cases where there are few assets of value aside from jointly held real estate, the property usually automatically reverts to the spouse in California. 


Ask for Assistance in Sacramento, CA Today


When you ask the team at Klosek Law Offices, “How long does probate take?” we evaluate your case thoroughly. Our experience allows us to provide a reasonable estimate of how long it might take and highlight potential complications. 


Call our Sacramento, CA offices today at (916) 290-7560 to schedule your consultation. 

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