When Can I Expect A Probate Case To End?

When can I expect a probate administration to end?

Module 4

Once you begin administering a probate estate, you should try to close it quickly. Unfortunately, situations may delay this from occurring. Even the simplest of estates require time to open and administer. Administrations must provide proper notice and obtain documents from third parties. In more complicated cases, cases take longer due to will contests, the need to sell property to willing buyers, and overall complications due to poorly kept. These delays can prevent families from receiving what they deserve quickly. While courts impose general timelines, courts often extend them due to unexpected situations.

Estate Timelines

The length of time when it comes to administering an estate primarily depends on the type of administration occurring. For uncomplicated estates, summary relief or relief from administration increases the speed in resolving an estate. This is because not only does it involve less work, but also requires fewer administrative steps. Regardless, one cannot estimate the time for a probate case because is not a “standard” probate case.

Length of Time for Summary Relief from Administration

Fortunately, when it comes to summary relief from administration, delays come from time in obtaining documents and not from probate court itself. Administrators need to obtain the final funeral bill, copies of any estate planning documents, motor vehicle titles, and the names and addresses of the next of kin and those named in the will.

Once all the documents are in place and the application for summary release is filled out, the application is presented to probate court for approval. If it is approved, the court will grant summary relief from administration. It takes about one week for the estate paperwork to come fully into effect.  Oftentimes, estates will not need a formally scheduled court hearing. Instead, administrators can resolve issues by visiting the office hours of the magistrate staff.

Relief from Administration Timeline

In most circumstances, if an estate goes through the relief from administration process, executors can open and close the estate in roughly three months. Most of the delays associated with closing an estate that is granted relief, stem from delays in obtaining paperwork. This includes the death certificate ordered from the county health department. Also, someone will need to provide the funeral bill or proof of payment for a funeral.

Procedural Delays

Another potential delay with relief from administration comes from all the signed necessary waivers from the next of kin. Estates must obtain perfected service via certified mail if a signed waiver is not obtained. Unknown addresses of relatives cause delays because service must be demonstrated before the next step.Some situations require service through publication in a local periodical.

An estate may need an appraisal to demonstrate it qualifies for relief. The estate must hire an appraiser and submit the appraisal with court. The administrator must provide other documents demonstrating values and ownership.

Application Approval

When the estate completes the application for relief, it must presents the document to a magistrate for approval. This ensures document accuracy and will trigger a hearing on relief from administration. The courts set dates about a month out for this hearing. A successful hearing generates relief from administration.

Full Estate Administration

In the best of circumstances, a full estate administration can last approximately six months. Courts allow creditors to come forward months after death to present claims against the estate. The estates must then resolve these creditor claims. Even without potential creditors, the signature and notice requirements for relatives and beneficiaries listed in the will take weeks, if not months if there is a holdout relative.

Probate provides surviving spouses the opportunity to make elections concerning their share of the estate. This election period, if not waived or elected earlier, can take five months. This period runs concurrently with the six month period for creditors.

Probate administration may, at times, feel a bit like a “hurry up then wait” process. In this sense, the timelines imposed by the court may seem less like a hurdle and more like a shot clock when it comes to taking all of the required steps. For example, filing an inventory may take longer than three months. In these instances, there is a possibility that courts will grant extensions for good cause.


After the inventory is filed, the estate administrator has nine months to collect all the assets in the name of the deceased. This is true even if the adminstrator cannot easily obtain them. Courts grant other individuals five months from the date of appointment to file suits against the executor or administrator. These suits range from failing to perform duties to other claims associated with the estate.

If the estate requires an estate tax payment, the estate tax must be filed and paid for nine months after the date of death. This means that the executor may have to take steps to ensure timely payment. If the estate is unable to issue payment due to liquidity, the executor may need to resolve the matter with the Internal Revenue Service. This can include arranging a payment plan upon access to additional assets.

Sometimes, estates cannot locate people named in wills. When this occurs, the probate judge, after six months, may request the executor to make the inheritance payment to the county treasurer until the beneficiary files for the unclaimed fund.  This provides the beneficiary an avenue to receive the inheritance without extended administration of the estate. Otherwise, this could potentially eat in to these assets to the point there is a zero balance.


The first accounting of the estate is due nine months after the administrator is appointed. If the entire state has not been resolved at this time, the administrator can file a partial accounting. A partial accounting demonstrates the status of the assets at the nine month point. Eventually, the estate must provide a final accounting. The accounting office of probate court must review all full and partial accounting.

Estates may resolve full administrations in six months in the best of circumstances. In the worst of circumstances, a complicated and drawn out estate takes years to finalize. In these cases, it is heavily recommended that the administrator have an attorney for the estate to assist them at ensuring that everything is compliant.

Non-Probate Property

One of the problems with the probate process, as one can see from this article, is that it takes time before families have access to the estate of the deceased. Because of this, families may want to free up assets in a way that ensures there is enough liquidity during the probate process. Families may change property ownership before death to avoid probate.

Non-probate property may relieve some of the stress associated with managing an estate. Non-probate property avoids the probate process entirely because it is not in the named of the deceased when they pass away. The property can automatically transfer ownership to someone else at death. In other cases, it is in another person’s name or control at death. This means that the owners of this property control it the moment of the deceased’s passing regardless of the probate court process. Since the property avoids probate, courts do not count it as an asset when it comes to determining probate fees.

Examples of non-probate property include property that is titled as joint with rights of survivorship. This includes bank accounts, real estate, and other assets. Other non-probate property includes insurance policies not in the name of the deceased and retirement accounts with other individuals identified as beneficiaries.

Non-probate property is immediately accessible for families. Because of this, including it in your estate plan can ease the burden when it comes to administering an estate. It avoids delays when it comes to processing payments, and assists in addressing urgent expenses that arise following the passing of a loved one.

Lesson Takeaways:

  1. The time spent in probate court depends on the type of administration. Summary relief from administration resolves an estate faster than relief or full administration. However, an estate must qualify for summary relief or relief in order to obtain the benefits.

  2. Estates do not need wills for administration, but an up to date will can speed up the process.

  3. Estates resolve can summary relief from administration in one day.  However, obtaining the proper documents may take several weeks.

  4. Estates can process relief from administration in approximately three months.

  5. It takes about six months for a  full estate administration. However, estates may take a bit longer due to obtaining information from creditors, beneficiaries, and disagreement among the next of kin.

  6. Proper estate planning makes it easier for families going through the probate process. Specifically, titling assets in a way to avoid probate can reduce stress. One example includes assets owned as joint with rights of survivorship. These assets automatically transfer to other family members on death allowing instant access to funds.