Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why Does Probate Take So Long?

Probate is the legal process that validates a will, if there is one, and administers the estate of a deceased. You often hear about the length and expense of probate, and some aspects of estate planning are aimed at avoiding probate. But why does probate take months, even years, to complete?

There are several steps that are taken during the probate process, and they involve various tasks that are handled by the estate's Executor, also known as the Personal Representative. These tasks can be time consuming and detail-oriented, they include:

• Obtaining a federal tax identification number for the estate;

• Opening a bank account so bills can be paid;

• Identifying the deceased's creditors, locating them and notifying them of the death;

• Identifying heirs and beneficiaries, locating them and notifying them of the death;

• Identifying and inventorying the property that was owned by the deceased;

• Filing a final tax return for the estate and paying any estate taxes that may be owed;
• Paying off creditors;

• Distributing property to heirs according to the state law if there was no will or beneficiaries that are named within a will;

• Completing a final accounting of the estate for Probate Court;

• Closing the estate by submitting a sworn statement to the court.

At any point along the way, the estate can hit a snag. For instance, if there is not enough cash on hand to pay creditors, property may need to be sold to satisfy creditor's claims.

Obviously, this is a detail-oriented, lengthy process, which takes place during the grieving process. Many families choose to hire a probate attorney to assist them in this process. Having a comprehensive estate plan in place can not only avoid certain types of property entering probate, but it can help make the process less burdensome on your loved ones.

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