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How long can an estate be stuck in the probate courts?

As with all legal matters, readers should be aware that their individual probate timelines may be very different from those of others who also must go through the process. As every Massachusetts resident will pass on with a unique estate, the individual characteristics of their property, assets, and wealth will influence if their probate process is lengthy or brief. Therefore, this post is offered as information only and not legal guidance on any individual probate situation.

In the first few months after a decedent passes on, their will may be validated and their administrator located. The estate may then be subject to a probate hearing, which will address issues with the estate and may include the identification of creditors. During the first year of the probate process, items of property identified by the decedent may be located so that they may later be distributed to beneficiaries.

Tax obligations may take over a year to finalize, and the accounting on a probated estate may require more than a year as well to become firm. Once creditors have been paid, beneficiaries found, assets located, and other legal requirements met, an estate can be distributed and ultimately closed once its administration is complete.

The size of an estate, whether the decedent had an estate plan and many other factors can influence how long the probate process will take. Readers should be aware that some of the issues that can delay probate may be addressed during the process of creating an estate plan. Individuals who wish to avoid probate delays may want to speak with their local estate planning attorneys.

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