When someone dies, an individual will be given the job of tallying up all of the items in their estate. The creation of the final value and distribution among beneficiaries is known as the probate process. Even though each state has its own probate process, there are a few that most require. These make up the standard probate timeline. Here is some basic information on each of these steps and how long they take.
1. Probate Notice
Even if all of the descendants attend a funeral and know who will be handling a deceased’s estate, this is not enough to start the process. Instead, you will need to notify all the beneficiaries and heirs. Typically, you will have three months after your first hearing at the probate court to notify these individuals. However, you can speed up this process by notifying everyone before your first hearing.
2. Probate Petition
Unless the deceased’s estate is very slim or does not include property, you will need an attorney to file a petition to probate. Once this has been filed, you will be given a court date where your first hearing will be held. This process can take a few weeks or several months, depending on how far your court date is set.
3. Creditor Notice
Any debts of the deceased will need to be settled as soon as possible. The funds will be taken from the deceased’s bank accounts, stocks, life insurance, and land. To formally complete this process, you will need to notify any creditors or other invested parties within six months.
4. Create an Inventory of Assets
Another major task that you must complete is creating an inventory and assess the value of the deceased’s assets. This must be completed with a state form that gets submitted with the closing documents. Work with your attorney to complete this because they will know what items must be included in the inventory and how long you can take to complete this according to your state’s laws.
5. Property Sale
When you want to sell the deceased’s property, the process timeline is based on whether you received dependent or independent rights to the land. If you’ve been granted independent rights, you can sell the property as though it were any other real estate transaction. However, if you were granted dependent rights, there will be more court oversight, and it will add time to your real estate transaction. Additionally, you will likely need a real estate agent who has experience working with these kinds of cases to guide you through the process.
6. Final Accounting
While you are selling property, settling debts, and assessing inventory, you need to keep track of all the financial records. This documentation will need to be compiled when you are ready to close the estate and submitted along with other closing documents. This is known as the final accounting stage, and the estate cannot be closed without it, although it generally does not take very long if you keep precise records.
7. Final Distribution and Closing the Estate
During the rest of these steps, you will likely only be allowed to distribute family heirlooms and small trinkets. The rest of the items must be held until the final hearing. This allows the probate court to ensure that all necessary measures to settle debts and total the estate value were made before items and funds are distributed.
The probate process may seem intimidating at first glance. However, depending on local laws, it can actually be fairly simple and take less time than you would expect. Plus, going into the process knowing what to expect can make it go smoother.