One of the last few questions I always address at the end of a probate consultation is:
“How long will Probate take?”
Generally speaking: Summary administration typically takes a few weeks from the date of filing to get orders distributing the assets. Anyone who promises anything sooner is being less than forthcoming. (In some counties, judges require you to wait out the 90 day creditor period before they sign anything.)
Formal administration typically takes anywhere from six to nine months.
Two Primary Factors that Determine Length of Probate
1. Notice to creditors: This is a legal notice that must be published in a newspaper of adequate circulation, Which gives an opportunity to all creditors who have not otherwise been directly notified of the administration. A published notice to creditors begins the running of a 90 day creditor period.
A notice to creditors is required whenever the date of death has occurred within less than two years of filing. This applies to both summary and formal administration.
- In a summary administration, a notice to creditors can be published immediately after the case has been filed, or once orders have been entered. Again, you should know that some judges will require you to wait the full 90 day creditor period before signing any orders. This is for the protection of any possible creditors looming in the background.
- In a formal administration, the notice should be published shortly after the case is been filed.
As you can see, even in a summary administration, while the orders may have already been signed, some or all of the assets may be subject to the creditor period, should a creditor file a claim.
Note however, that if the only assets in the administration are homestead property or otherwise considered exempt from claims of creditors, then creditor claims shouldn’t worry you.
2. Clerk and court processing time: Clerk and courthouse offices are becoming busier every day, especially with staff cuts and an increase in cases filed. Busier counties often (but not always) mean longer processing and review times.
If an attorney suggests an emergency petition, he or she should be aware that the grounds for such an emergency filing are very limited.
Other factors may include the requirement of a bond if a judge so orders, creditor claims and of course contests or any litigation over the distribution of the estate.
An uncontested probate administration should generally be a smooth and seamless process.
Be sure you give your attorney all of the information that he or she needs to appropriately prepare for filing. If there are any unanticipated matters that might interrupt or delay the process or if you have omitted any information that may become a factor in the probate administration, you will probably face a delay.