How Long Does the Probate Process Take?

The amount of time that the probate process will take depends entirely upon the unique circumstances of each decedent’s estate. Factors that can affect how long the process will take include:

  • The types of assets
  • The number of assets and their monetary value
  • The number of heirs
  • Locating the heirs
  • Determining heirs in the case of intestate succession
  • Whether a will has been drafted
  • Proving the validity of a will
  • The amount of debt and whether any creditors will attempt to collect on the debt
  • Tax issues
  • Whether there are any disputes or other uncertainties

A lengthy probate process causes undue stress to loved ones who are still in the mourning period. In addition, probate can become extremely expensive if the parties insist on litigating issues in court. For instance, if there is a dispute regarding the validity of the will, a family member will file a case in probate court. This case incurs filing fees, court costs, and attorneys’ fees for all involved parties.

The average probate process in Massachusetts takes anywhere from 1.5 to 2 years. Straightforward cases involving a very small estate and few heirs can take as little as 9 months to 1 year. More complex cases or cases involving heavy litigation can drag out for several years or even decades.

Each estate has an appointed representative who is tasked with administering the estate on behalf of the decedent. The representative is in charge of the estate until the probate process concludes. Likewise, any beneficiaries or heirs must wait until the conclusion of probate to receive any inheritance. As such, the probate process can seem interminably long.

The best way to reduce the amount of time your estate spends in probate is to plan ahead by working alongside an attorney to draft an estate plan. Skilled probate attorneys are able to help you arrange and organize your assets and debts prior to death, such as through setting up trusts. In addition, probate attorneys can ensure that your will is valid and in conformity with Massachusetts probate law. You can even appoint your attorney as estate administrator to reduce confusion and issues following your passing.

Don’t wait until it is too late to make an effective estate plan. You should begin estate planning well before you reach retirement age. By being proactive, you can streamline the probate process for your loved ones and secure your assets for the future.

The Sullivan Firm P.C. has over 12 years of experience with probate and estate planning. Our attorneys can ensure that your will is valid and up-to-date, educate you on the tax implications associated with gifts and trusts, explain the probate process to you, and assist you with drafting a legally sound and enforceable estate plan. Contact The Sullivan Firm P.C. today at (978) 325-2721 for a complimentary consultation.

Troy Sullivan, Massachusetts Estate Planning AttorneyThe Sullivan Firm, P.C. is a boutique probate and estate planning law firm serving the North Shore and Cape Ann of Massachusetts including Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester and Beverly. The firm concentrates on estate planning matters, including trusts, wills, healthcare proxies, life planning, probate, special needs trusts, and trust administration.