Several factors affect how long the probate case will take. We have seen some cases wrap up within a few months. Other cases have required multiple years to complete due to either dispute, difficulty in collecting assets (such as selling real estate), inaction by the personal representative, or other delays.
After the appointment of a personal representative, proper notice must be provided to potential creditors, and certain periods must be allowed for potential creditors to file claims. These timeframes depend upon how long ago the decedent passed away. Suppose the decedent died less than a year ago.
In that case, a Notice to Creditors must be published in an appropriate newspaper, and a minimum of four months (120 days) must be allowed as a timeframe in which unknown creditors can present claims. We typically advise that no claims be paid, distributions are made until this time passes, and all creditors are dealt with appropriately. This means that these estates will have to be open for 4-5 months after the appointment of the personal representative, at the very least.
Other factors that impact the length of the case are the speed with which the personal representative can locate and collect all estate assets, including selling any assets that need to be sold; whether or not there are disputes or objections to the appointment of the personal representative or any of the personal representative’s actions; whether or not all heirs and/or devisees can be located; how many creditors make claims against the estate, and whether there are disputes over the validity or allowance of any such claims; and how efficiently the personal representative communicates with other parties in the case and whether they promptly file all required documents.
Based on our experience, the average probate case tends to last approximately a year, with many resolving quickly and some requiring more time.