Why it probate takes so long and what you can do about it

Clifford Gravett, Esq.

As anyone who has ever been through the probate process (the legal proceedings whereby a deceased person’s estate is passed to his or her heirs) can attest, it takes a while. There are a number of reasons for this, most of which cannot be helped, some of which can, and none of which is any fun. However, understanding the reasons why everything takes so long can, hopefully, reduce some of the frustration which is inherent to the probate process.

Reason number one why probate takes so long: you have to get permission from the court before you can do much of anything. You name it, from getting the executor appointed, getting the house sold, or giving money/assets to heirs, the judge has to approve it first. Since there are thousands of ongoing probate cases in any given court, you have to wait your turn (in other words, your request for permission sits on a clerk’s desk for a while) and that can take a while.

Reason number two why probate takes so long: notice to creditors. Before any assets can be given to the heirs, you have to publish notice to creditors allowing them to make claims on the estate if they desire to do so. The length of time notice has to be published varies from case to case, but can’t pay out the estate assets until notice is given.

Last, but certainly not least in reasons why probate takes so long: will contests and objections. If someone thinks your grandmother’s will is fake, that she wasn’t in her right mind when she signed it, or that the estate is not being properly administered, they can fight either the legitimacy of the will, or your right to continue being the executor of the will. In either case, even if the contest is completely groundless, it will take quite some time to work its way through the system. In such cases, the probate process could take many months.

So, probate takes a while; what can you do about it when the time comes for your heirs to probate your estate? Skip probate altogether! A trust, transfer upon death deeds, non-probate accounts, lifetime transfers are all ways to prevent the probate court from getting involved in the probate of your estate. Although it will require some time and effort up front on your part, it will save your heirs a lot of time and money in the long run.

Clifford Gravett is an attorney with the Virgin Valley law firm of Bingham Snow & Caldwell. He is licensed to practice in Nevada, Arizona and Utah. He can be reached at 702-346-7300, cliff@binghamsnow.com, or 840 Pinnacle Court, Suite 202 in Mesquite.