How long does probate take?

1 answer | Last updated: Mar 07, 2015
Juliann50 asked...

How long should it take for probate to be over? My cousin is my mother's executor and it has been 18 months since my mother's passing. I still have not heard anything about when I can expect my share of the inheritance. Is this normal or is this matter being delayed unreasonably?

Expert Answers

Unfortunately, there's little you can do, except ask your cousin what's taking so long. She may not know. It's the probate lawyer and court who really determine how long the case takes. Often that's a long time, many month, or even many years.

For almost all estates probate is needless and cumbersome. However, it's legally required for property left by a will. In a probate proceeding, various documents"”from an initial filing of the will to accountings and all sorts of other papers"”must be filed with and approved by as court. This takes time. The time can be considerably lengthened if the probate attorney doesn't move the case along as fast as possible. This often happens"”the attorney may have other, more pressing matters. Plus the lawyer knows that he or she will get paid eventually for the probate work. And paid very well.

All this is evidence why it's highly desirable to avoid probate, which can be easily done with some advance planning. I've learned that there's nothing like having had an experience of probate for some family member's property to motivate the remaining members to do that estate planning.