After the death of a loved one, you may feel like matters go very quickly. Before you know it, relatives arrive, you discuss arrangements, and suddenly you are sitting at a funeral service thinking that you were talking with your departed parent or grandparent just days ago. At the end of the day, it may seem like everything is over. However, probate is just beginning.
You may be eager to bring closure to your loved one’s finances, or perhaps you are expecting an inheritance from the estate. Either way, the length of probate is typically frustrating, even when the estate is simple. If your loved one made a will, you may find things go smoother. However, even with a will, there are elements that may drag out the process indefinitely.
What’s the hold up?
Having an estate plan is a generous gift, and if your loved one prepared a will or trust, you are fortunate. Not many people take the time for estate planning, and no will means you and your fellow beneficiaries will be at the mercy of the court.
One factor that may determine the length of probate is the personal representative appointed to administer the estate. The wrong executor can complicate the process by mishandling the assets, failing to pay creditors or stirring up animosity among the heirs.
In addition to this, other factors that may drag out probate include:
- Federal estate taxes: Although Nevada does not assess estate taxes, if your loved one’s estate is worth more than the current federal exemption, the executor will have to deal with this tax. This could add six or more months to the average length of probate.
- Unusual assets: If your loved one owned patents, rare objects, race horses, or rights to oil or minerals, these will take time to value. Also, objects that are difficult to liquidate without reducing the value may complicate the assessment of the estate’s worth.
- Too many beneficiaries: Because the estate must notify each heir and keep them updated throughout the process, having more than a few people named as beneficiaries can drag out the process, especially if they are difficult to locate or live far away from the estate.
- Feuding heirs: It is not unheard of for beneficiaries to intentionally drag out probate with constant squabbles and challenges. An heir who contests the will or who forces the executor to go to court before making any decisions may succeed in adding years to the probate process.
Without any of these factors complicating matters, the typical probate may last about eight months to a year. There are so many variables that it is nearly impossible to give a more accurate estimation. However, many families find that consulting with a legal professional from the beginning of the probate process provides them with an advantage.