Probate is the process by which a will is presented in court for a judge to determine its validity, to appoint and empower an Executor with Letters Testamentary to pay off the Testator’s debts and distribute their property and possessions to their beneficiaries.
The following is a sample probate timeline. It is an approximation and is not guaranteed for any individual case. Estates may be resolved more quickly if there is limited property and an uncomplicated family situation. However, many estates will take much longer to administer if there is significant or complex property or a disagreement between family members and heirs. You would be wise to consult with a a local probate attorney on the specifics of your probate matter.
Months 1 – 3: During the first months after a decedent’s death, the surviving family will gather the necessary documentation and Petition the Surrogate’s Court to have the Estate’s Personal Representative appointed. This process will include the following:
- Locate and read the will.
- Decide upon a personal representative to nominate for the Estate – This will be the Executor appointed by the decedent’s will, or it may be some other qualified person that all family members can agree upon.
- Prepare and send a waiver and consent to all the heirs and beneficiaries of the Estate – this is a document the heirs will sign stating that they agree that the Will is valid and that they consent to the nominated personal representative being appointed as Executor of the Estate.
- Obtain death certificates.
- File a Probate Petition with the Surrogate’s Court seeking Letters Testamentary for the Executor. In some cases, this will take longer than 3 months (especially if there are delays in getting executed waivers and consents), and depending on the county in which it is filed.
Months 3 – 6: After the Executor receives Letter’s Testamentary from the Court, they begin acting on behalf of the Estate. The Executor will:
- Take an inventory of the estate’s assets and creditors.
- Access and inventory any safe deposit boxes.
- Deal with the legitimate debts of the estate.
- Meet with an accountant regarding any tax returns due on behalf of the estate. The decedent will have a final income tax return due as well as a possible estate tax return.
- At the end of this period, the Executor should have a handle on the contents of the estate and should obtain property appraisals (if appropriate) and file an inventory of assets with the Court.
Month 7 +: The majority of estates will require at least seven months before the Executor may begin property distribution but at this point, the Executor should determine which property should be sold and which beneficiary will get which asset (if not specified in the will).
At this point in the Estate Administration process the Executor will complete negotiations with creditors, close creditor claims, pay creditors and tax bills and provide an initial accounting to beneficiaries.
The Executor will prepare a formal or informal accounting and ultimately distribute assets to beneficiaries.
It bears repeating that the above is simply a sample timeline and things will often be completed at a different pace with some Estates remaining unresolved for several years. Please contact Nasser Law PLLC to discuss the particulars of your probate matter.