Probate can be a complicated process, taking months or years to complete. Location is one factor that greatly contributes to the length of probate proceedings. There are five main facets regarding locale that you should consider when facing probate.
1. Location of the Legal Personal Representative
The probate process lengthens if the legal personal representative lives in a different city or state. The further away an executor resides, the longer proper, legal correspondences will take. If the representative exists in a different time zone that further complicates the situation. Courts and attorneys often have strict business hours and with time differences the contactable hours greatly shorten, thus further drawing everything out. Many probate documents legally require a physical signature and courts will not recognize electronic ones, so an administrator who lives in another location must also factor in mailing and traveling times.
2. Location of the Decedent
The decedent’s primary residence is the location required to file and carry out probate. Even if the deceased died or at times lived elsewhere, such as a vacation home, the primary address listed on legal documents is the place that the probate must happen. This can seriously complicate probate matters if the dead person spent a majority of their time or placed a significant number of their belongings in another place. It may be necessary to repeatedly travel between the various places where the decedent and his or her assets and debts exist, quickly elongating the probate experience.
3. Location of the Assets and Debts
Even if the decedent only had one property, it can take a while to figure out what and where all the assets are. Locating valuables, accounts, and other possible inheritances requires great diligence and investigation. Often there are piles of paperwork to read through as well as physical clutter to sort out to correctly gauge the total estate value. Many times representatives will discover important and lucrative assets that the decedent never told anybody about, but it takes time.
On top of the credits that might be discovered, executors also have to find and prepare to take care of all the deceased’s debts. Debt collectors legally receive a certain amount of time to respond to collection opportunities, so administrators have to properly notify and then wait the required amount of time to settle any debts owed. Generally, all debts have to be taken care of before any inheritances can be distributed.
4. Location of the Beneficiaries
Discovering how many and who the beneficiaries are can take a long time. This time grows the further away the beneficiaries live too. By law, all beneficiaries have to be notified and given time to legally accept or contest wills. Again, documents often need physical signatures and sometimes require the physical presence of the beneficiary. This means that once again travel times for documents and/or people affect the length of the process. Depending on how much correspondence and transit is required this time increase can be quite significant.
5. Location of the Probate Court
The length of probate proceedings changes depending on which state the court is in. Many states provide options to simplify the process depending on the size of the estate and some do not. Some states have longer time limits on when potential creditors or contesters can come forward. Other states vary in the degree of documentation and type of documentation, in person or not, required for each different stage of the practice, which greatly informs upon the amount of time spent completing each part.
The location of many different factors directly impacts how long probate takes. It is important to keep these factors in mind so you have realistic expectations and understandings of when you will get your inheritance.