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Thursday, February 1, 2018

How Long Does the Probate Process Take?

When someone close to you dies, you have to deal with many issues, including the person’s estate. People in Texas are fortunate, because you might not have to go through the probate courts at all. If you do have to probate the will and the decedent’s estate falls within the guidelines for “independent administration,” the journey through court can be simple, with little official supervision.

If you have to take the estate through probate court with a dependent administration, it will take much longer than an independent administration. The length of time it takes to go through probate depends on the type of probate you use and whether you have an experienced probate lawyer working for you. So, how long does the probate process take?

When You Can Transfer Assets Without Going Through Probate Court

Texas allows you to transfer some assets from the decedent to the new owner without involving the probate court. These include:

  • Proceeds from a life insurance policy
  • Bank accounts structured as “POD,” also called Payable on Death
  • An annuity’s survivor benefits
  • Joint tenancy property when there is a surviving joint tenant who has the right of survivorship
  • Community property when there is a surviving owner with the right of survivorship

If the decedent’s property falls within these categories, you do not have to go to court. The first step is to get certified copies of the death certificate. File a claim with the life insurance company for the policy proceeds. Go to the bank to have the account retitled. File a claim for survivor’s benefits with the annuity company. Go to the recorder of deeds or other titling entity to retitle joint tenant or community property.

Estates That Qualify for Independent Administration

If the will tells the person named as executor to perform as independent administration (IA), you should jump on that option. IA is easier, simpler, quicker, and cheaper than dependent administration, which is more formal.  Using the IA option means the heirs will get their money and assets quicker, and there will be more money left in the estate for them.

If the will does not direct the executor to use the IA process but all the beneficiaries want to go that route, the executor can ask the court for permission to perform IA of the estate. With this type of administration, the executor will not have to post a bond and will not have to get the court to approve every step it takes, such as to pay the debts, sell the property, and distribute the assets.

Probate Options

If the decedent had a valid will, owed no money except on real estate, and had not received Medicaid benefits, it is possible to transfer the estate assets through the muniment of title process. You file the request for this type of administration in the probate court along with the will. The judge looks over the request to determine if the estate qualifies for the muniment of title method.

If granted, the person who filed the request gets to distribute the assets according to the will. Within six months, she must file a paper with the court outlining which terms of the will she has fulfilled and which ones she has not yet completed.

The Long and the Short of It

The quickest routes to transfer estate assets are through independent administration, muniment of title, or avoiding probate altogether. If you must, however, go through formal probate of an estate, the process can drag on for years. The executor does not even have to file for probate for four years. Usually, however, people file wills with the probate court somewhere between a couple of months to a year after the death. With formal administration, just the notices to the public, to creditors, and to the beneficiaries can take several months.

The judge will have to decide whether to admit the will to probate. There will be multiple hearings along the way. Formal probate can take years, depending on the complexity of the estate and whether creditors or beneficiaries get involved.

To determine which alternative is best for your loved one’s estate, contact a Texas probate attorney at the Law Office of Carey Thompson today.


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