Most people don’t have a firm understanding as to what the probate process entails until they sit down with an estate planning attorney. Lawyers often inform their clients about some of the more common reasons for probate delays and how to best avoid them during these conversations.
Contrary to popular belief, delays in the probate process don’t always stem from someone contesting a testator’s will, nor are they usually the executor’s fault. Instead, probate delays can occur for a variety of non-contentious reasons. Knowing more about the issues that can arise can help you plan better for the future.
Personal representatives have multiple responsibilities to fulfill when testators pass away. One of those is to locate each beneficiary or heir and obtain any necessary paperwork that’s needed from them. It may take personal representatives some time to locate a beneficiary and confirm receipt of the paperwork they sent, thus delaying the probate process.
Tax filing delays
Another responsibility that personal representatives must carry out is preparing a testator’s final tax return. There may be additional state tax returns or payments that a personal representative must also file depending on where the decedent previously lived or owned property. Preparing these returns and waiting for the different tax authorities to process them can also result in probate delays.
Rare or collectible possessions that a testator owned might also slow down the probate process, especially if an appraiser needs to assign a value to them or a personal representative needs to liquidate them to pay off creditors or divide the assets among the heirs.
How can estate planning minimize probate process delays?
Careful estate planning can reduce the chances of a contested will, minimize your tax burden and aid in the seamless transfer of assets to your loved ones. An attorney will likely want to know about the various assets you have before making any recommendations about the estate planning documents you may want to draft to avoid potential probate delays.