Sunday, April 05, 2015

Probate Patience: How Long Should it Take to Complete Probate?

A common question that comes up in client meetings is 'how long does it take to get through probate?'  There a lot of variables that go into that determination.  However, it is fair to recommend some patience for the process to get completed.

Notice Publication - This is one of the primary delays.  One requirement is that the executor/attorney needs to publish notice in a local newspaper to run for 2 consecutive weeks.  Then, after the 2nd publication, there is a 4 month period in which anybody can file a claim in the estate or contest the will.  There is also a requirement that notice be given to all interested parties.  The claims process/will challenge ends than later of (1) four months after the second notice publication notice or (2) 30 days after mailing notice.

Inventory - An inventory needs to be completed and filed with the court.  That includes getting date of death values and listing of all assets.  Depending on the organization of the records and information, that may take some time to get assembled.  This inventory should be filed with the court within 90 days after the appointment of the executor.

Tax Filings - In addition to filing the decedent's final individual income tax return, there are also fiduciary returns to be filed.  In Iowa, the Iowa Department of Revenue has to approve and issue a proper clearance before you can close the estate.  That review process can take up to 90 days after filing.  Other tax filings potentially include the Iowa Inheritance Tax return and the federal estate tax return (for larger estates).  Both of those returns also have to be approved and a proper clearance issued.

Creditors & Challengers - You also have the potential issue of claims filed in the estate and resolution of those claims. Then, if you have a will challenge, you are really getting the probate case extended out for several months or possibly years.

On average, I estimate a year to complete the probate process.  Sometimes they can close sooner, but sometimes later.  Every case is different with different facts and different persons.