The 8 Things That Add Months Of Delays To A Probate Case

Edited by Vlad Portnoy

Probate can be a lengthy and complicated process for settling an estate. There are various factors that can contribute to a prolonged probate, and many people are unaware of the potential for these issues. A lack of estate planning can result in assets being subject to the control of the court.

Estates With More Than a Few Beneficiaries

One factor that can cause probate to take longer is having more than two or three beneficiaries. Notifying all beneficiaries about the status of the estate is a legal requirement, and multiple documents may need to be signed by each beneficiary. This can slow down the process, especially if some beneficiaries are located far away or have conflicting schedules.

When Beneficiaries Live Some Distance Away

Multiple beneficiaries who are spread all across the U.S. will be more difficult to deal with, even with modern technology. The time differences and expensive overnight mail service will definitely take a toll on the estate administration if a beneficiary is located outside of the U.S.

Beneficiaries living at a distance are said to be the No. 1 reason why the probate process sometimes gets held up.

Estates With Assets in Various States


Another issue that can cause prolonged probate is having assets located in multiple states. In this case, multiple probate proceedings may be required, leading to a more time-consuming process.

Estates That Have to File Estate Tax Returns

Additionally, estates that are required to file estate tax returns with the IRS or state may experience further delays, as the IRS must process and approve the return before the estate can be closed.

Estates With Unusual Assets

Estates that have unique or difficult to value assets, such as rare collectibles or oil and mineral rights, can also take longer to probate. The process may be delayed until the value of these assets can be determined and the estate tax return can be filed.

When Beneficiaries Don’t Get Along

Another factor that can slow down probate is when beneficiaries do not get along or if there are multiple conflicting wills. In these cases, the personal representative may need to go to court to resolve disputes, which can result in a much longer probate process.

When There Are Too Many Wills

It’s not unheard of for a decedent to leave a last will and testament without stating explicitly in the document that it replaces and revokes any will made prior to that time. Should an heir or beneficiary pop up brandishing another will with better terms, it might not be immediately clear which will should supersede the other.

This will almost certainly result in a will contest so the court can figure it out. Settling the estate could be delayed for a year or more.

The Wrong Executor

Finally, choosing an incompetent or disorganized executor can also cause probate to take longer. The executor must handle a significant amount of responsibilities and duties to guide the estate through probate, and if they are not able to do so efficiently, it can lead to delays.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, many of the factors that can cause prolonged probate are beyond the control of the executor or probate attorney. It is important for individuals to plan ahead and understand the potential challenges of the probate process to ensure that their assets are settled efficiently and effectively.

About the author

Vlad Portnoy

Mr. Portnoy aims to educate the community on all aspects of estate and asset protection planning ranging from government benefit entitlement programs to high net worth individuals and family offices.