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Why Does the Probate Process Take So Long?

November 23, 2021

Why Does the Probate Process Take So Long?

If you’ve ever lost a family member who’s left you or someone else their assets, you’ve likely had to witness a will reading. Sometimes they go off without much of a hitch or intervention. This can see asset ownership sorted out in a matter of weeks. But far too often, that’s not the case, as the deceased’s will is provided to and accepted by the court. This process can take 9 to 18 months in Pennsylvania, and it’s called probate.

Through the probate process, the court will go through assets to confirm future ownership. They use the will as a guide for what the deceased wanted to be done with their assets. Sometimes even when the will clearly divulge the deceased’s intentions, the court can still take over a year to confirm. But why? We can explain.

Why Does the Probate Process Take So Long?

The act of going through a will shouldn’t take so long. If the will is clear, with stated beneficiaries for each asset and no arguments or missing beneficiaries, shouldn’t the process be quick and easy? But probate rarely is because there’s always one thing at least that goes wrong.

This is why it’s recommended that when you make a will, you do so with an experienced will & estate planning attorney. We can walk you through everything and help you minimize as many things that can extend probate as you can.

What Can Make Probate Last Longer?

In reality, there are a multitude of things that can make probate last longer than it needs to. Some things can be avoided entirely, and some can be minimized. We can explain both.

  • When someone dies intestate or without a will. This happens when someone dies without a will and the court has to use its own metrics and rules to divide assets. The probate process can be at its longest as the court tries to figure out how to divide monetary and no-monetary assets up fairly. You can avoid this entirely by contacting an attorney to help you write a will.
  • Having multiple beneficiaries who need to be contacted. When you have many loved ones to leave your assets to, it can’t be helped that they all need to be contacted or gathered together. To deal with this, we can recommend trying to group beneficiaries together in your will. For instance, if some friends or family are a part of the same family unit, grouping them together can make it so only one needs to be contacted.
  • There are beneficiaries who live far away. When you have physical assets that people need to come to claim and collect, this will lengthen the process. There isn’t much one can do. When a beneficiary lives far away, they need to find the time. When making your will, consider who can come to claim the assets you leave them. This way, you can potentially reduce your will’s time in probate.
  • Estates with unusual assets that are difficult to value and divide. If you have high valued assets, collections of any kind, stock, or even pets, it’s difficult for the court to give any of those things to anyone. They need to all be accounted for, and in the case of anything living, the beneficiary must be accounted for and investigated in some instances. You can talk to an attorney about what kind of detailed instructions and verifications you can add to the will to move the process along for each unusual asset.
  • Beneficiaries don’t get along. It happens where friends and family may have gotten along with the deceased but not each other. Even those who care for each other may disagree on the percentage split of the assets. This can lead to them using their own attorneys to challenge or overrule your will. You can communicate with your beneficiaries and some specific non-beneficiaries so they don’t expect anything more or less before your passing. You can also communicate with your attorney about how to mitigate potential fighting amongst your beneficiaries.
  • There are too many wills. If you find yourself needing to update your will, you may think that your old one is invalidated by a new one. That’s true in most cases, but sometimes figuring out which is the most recent can be difficult depending on how they were made. Having multiple wills also calls into question any or every will’s validity. This can commonly lead to beneficiaries fighting over which will is most valid if they each receive different assets. If you make a new will with an attorney, they should tell you to tear up the old will unless they’re supposed to work in tandem with your current one. There are some types of wills where you can have multiple at the same time.

Contact Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano For Help Navigating the Probate Process

It’s difficult to think about when you might pass, but doing so now will truly save your friends and family the heartache later on. The Scranton estate planning attorneys at Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano can walk you through the process so you can make sure that your will is as airtight as it can be. This way, you can move your assets and your family through the probate process as fast as possible after you pass. Contact us today, our attorneys are always ready to help.

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