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If there is no will, there is a kind of hierarchy to the heirs identified by the court. The spouse has the first right to be appointed as administrator. If they don’t want to do it, the judge has to decide which of the children to appoint as the administrator. Sometimes the whole family comes into probate court on the date of the hearing and they all have an equal interest in the estate, so it comes down to the discretion of the judge. Another major player is creditors. Creditors oftentimes have a big debt that they are trying to recover. Sometimes, they will come into a probate case and try to assert their claims against the estate.

If we do have a will, it’s a lot simpler. We have to notify the beneficiaries, but there is no reason for them to show up in court. The client and I will show up to probate court and whoever we are appointing as the executor will walk through a few questions with the judge. Then in 90 days they have to report back an inventory of everything in the estate. After the inventory, the beneficiaries of the will have no rights to know what’s going on for 15 months before an executor has to give an accounting to them. Even then, he has 60 days after they ask. When we have a will, there is a lot of power vested in that executor, so it’s a really important decision as to who you trust to do a good and fair job.

What is The Standard Timeline For A Probate Case?

If we have a will, sometimes we can get you appointed executor as soon as four weeks, if it’s a straightforward case, and there is a lot of room on the court’s docket. The average timeline is more like two to three months before we get you appointed as the executor. Once appointed, the executor has 30 days to post notice in the newspaper to creditors. Then they have 60 days to give notice to any secured creditors informing that they’ve been appointed executor. Finally, they have 90 days from the time they were appointed to report back to the judge and let the judge know what assets they have collected in the estate.

The timeline really just depends on what the assets are and if anyone is disputing the valuations of what we are distributing. If everyone gets along, it could be finished in six to nine months. If they don’t, it could go on for years. For example, I have a case in my docket that has been going on for 12 years in probate court. It’s a drastically variable timeline. The reason is because if there is no will and we have an intestate hearing, it usually takes longer because we have to track down all of the heirs, serve them notice, and a lot of times we need them to sign a waiver. In those cases, it’s usually four to six months before we can even get you appointed as administrator.

What Actually Happens During The Probate Process?

Sometimes, probate is as simple as just getting the heirs to sign a piece of paper in front of a notary and then I report back to the judge, and he signs the order. Most of the time, it’s not that simple. Usually, we have to collect information. I have to prepare all the documents for filing and we work through a lot of different things, including the will and the death certificate. Then, we’ll schedule a date in front of the judge and name the executor, or witnesses will testify in front of the judge as to who the decedent was, whether or not they left a will, and who the heirs are.

When someone is appointed as executor, they have a lot of duties that they have to report back to the judge about. They have 30 days to post notice to the creditors in the newspaper, 60 days to give notice to secured creditors, and 90 days to collect all the assets and report back with an inventory. At that point, it’s really up to the executor as to how fast they move. They can make distributions to creditors and to heirs and wrap it up quickly, or they can drag their feet and take a really long time. Every probate is unique, and it depends on the complexity of the estate and the people involved.

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