There are a number of different reasons why you might find yourself directly involved in the probate of an estate. You might be a beneficiary or heir of the estate or even a creditor making claim against the estate. You could also have been appointed as the Executor of the estate by the decedent or volunteered to be the Personal Representative (PR) of the estate if the decedent died intestate, or without leaving behind a valid Last Will and Testament. Regardless of the reason for your involvement in the probate of the estate, there is one question you will likely want answered – “ How long does probate take? ” Given the highly personal, and therefore unique, nature of the probate process, there is no way to provide a universal answer to that question. There are, however, some common factors that tend to directly influence the amount of time it takes to probate an estate. A better understanding of those factors will likely give you a better idea of how long the probate process will take in your case.
What Is Probate and Why Is It Required?
When an individual dies, an estate is left behind. That estate consists of all assets owned by the decedent at the time of death. Eventually, those assets need to be passed down to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate. Before that can happen, however, the estate must go through the legal process known as probate. Probate is required for several reasons, including:
- To authenticate the decedent’s Last Will and Testament, if applicable.
- To ensure that all estate assets are identified, located, secured, and valued.
- To allow creditors the opportunity to file claims against the estate.
- To ensure that all taxes owed by the estate are paid.
How Long Does Probate Take?
The probate process is different for every estate; however, there are some common factors that will help determine how long the probate process is likely to take, including:
- Type of probate required – not all estates are required to go through formal probate. Some estates will qualify for an alternative to formal probate known as small estate administration. If the estate qualifies to be probated as s small estate, the amount of time it takes to get through the probate process will be significantly shorter.
- Size of the estate – although there are exceptions to this general rule, as a general rule, the larger the estate, the longer it will take to get through probate.
- Type of assets – while the size of the estate usually matters, that is only true if the estate is made up predominantly of probate assets. Not all estate assets are required to go through probate. Therefore, one of the first things that an Executor/PR must do is separate assets into probate and non-probate assets. Non-probate assets, such as trust assets, life insurance proceeds, and certain jointly held property, bypass the probate process altogether.
- Complexity of the assets involved – if the estate includes business assets, for example, the complexity of those assets will often make the probate process take longer.
- Estate liquidity – an estate should always have sufficient liquid assets to pay creditor claims and cover any tax debts. If the estate lacks liquidity, estate assets will need to be sold to cover debts and taxes. Selling estate assets can hold up the probate of the estate.
- Will challenge – if someone files a Will contest, the ensuing litigation will hold up the process for months, even years, because the probate process cannot resume until the contest is resolved.
- Executor/PR – people often make the mistake of appointing an Executor in their Will without giving the matter much thought. It isn’t until the Testator’s death that the ramifications of that choice become clear if the chosen Executor doesn’t have the experience and/or skills needed to perform he job well. The right Executor/PR can help an estate move through the probate process efficiently and economically whereas the wrong Executor/PR can cause delays in the probate process and drain the estate of assets.
If you have questions or concerns regarding how long the probate process takes in Illinois, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.