The days, weeks, and months (if not longer) after losing a loved one are an emotional and challenging time. Adding the legal on top of the personal compounds that stress. For a great number of families, probate becomes unavoidable, and it often takes longer than expected due to various factors. In this blog post, we will explore five big reasons why probate can be such a time-consuming process.
- Legal Complexity
Probate involves navigating a complex web of legal procedures and paperwork. The deceased person’s Will, if one exists, must be verified and validated in court. If there is no will, the estate will be distributed according to state laws, which can vary widely. This legal complexity often leads to delays as attorneys and the court work through the intricacies of the case. Any disputes among beneficiaries require more legal maneuvering, further prolonging the process. And if the deceased person owned property in more than one state, multiple probates may be required.
- Court Scheduling and Administrative Delays
Probate proceedings are subject to court scheduling and administrative bottlenecks. Courts often have crowded dockets and limited resources, which can lead to delays in the processing of filings and scheduling hearing dates. Administrative paperwork and documentation must be processed by court clerks, which can introduce further delays if there is a backlog or if errors are identified that require correction. Additionally, the availability of judges, magistrates, attorneys, and other parties involved impact the timeline.
- Estate Assets
Before assets can be distributed, an inventory of the deceased person’s estate must be created, presented to the court, and approved (or at least not objected to) by the court and beneficiaries. This includes identifying and valuing all assets, such as real estate, investments, personal belongings, and financial accounts. Determining the value of these assets can be a time-consuming task, especially if there are unique or illiquid assets that require an appraisal. Many courts have local rules for how this procedure is to be done and presented. The inventory and valuation process can be further delayed if there are disputes or disagreements among beneficiaries regarding the value or ownership of specific assets. If you are handling an estate for a loved one, use this as a lesson to get your personal estate plan in order and get properly organized so that this process will be easier for your family upon your passing.
In Ohio, for 6 months after someone passes away, creditors have the opportunity to make claims against the deceased person’s estate to collect on outstanding debts. Executors must carefully review and validate any claims made, and if a claim is rejected, the court may schedule a hearing to determine its validity. The 6-month window and potential disputes all add to the delay.
Most estates in Ohio don’t have to deal with estate taxes, as Ohio abolished its estate tax in 2013, and the Federal exemption amount is (as of this blog post) nearly $13 million per person. But income taxes still post an issue. Not only does a different schedule of tax rates apply to an estate, but the rules for who pays the tax and when get tricky as well. Plus, income this year cannot be reported until the tax return is due next year. Often, estates have to be kept open until all taxes are paid or refunds are received by the estate.
Unfortunately, the probate process can be a lengthy and frustrating experience for those involved. Legal complexity, court-related delays, asset valuation, creditor claims, and tax issues, are among the primary reasons why probate often takes longer than expected. To streamline the process and minimize delays, it is advisable to seek the assistance of an experienced probate attorney who can guide you through the intricacies of probate and help ensure a smoother and more efficient resolution of the estate.
If you need help through the probate process for a loved one, or you’re looking to set your own plan up to avoid probate altogether, you can speak with an OSBA Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate law in or office. Just reach out. No charge. Let’s Talk!