How long it takes to clear my spouses estate?

How long to settle my deceased spouse's estate?

Recently on our legal forum we had a user ask, "If my husband has passed away how long will it take to probate his estate?" Unfortunately, like many legal questions the answer depends on many factors such as where the representative lives, how many beneficiaries there are and where they live, the complexity of the estate, whether one of the heirs will contest the will and whether or not the state is taxable. If the deceased does not have a will this can also complicate the process to distribute their assets.

Factors for probating a will

If your deceased spouse has a will you will have to have the will probated. In the legal context this means the state will review the will and decide whether it is valid and legally enforceable. If they determine the will is valid, they will then ensure the process for distribution of the deceased's assets is done correctly. This process includes ensuring the proper beneficiaries receive the correct assets, taxes are paid, appraisals are done, and all parties are paid, including the court and the lawyers. If there is property which is not identified in the will the court will oversee the distribution process according to your state's laws.

How long does the distribution take?

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, there are many factors which can affect the timeframe for distribution of assets. In some states probate may take a few months; in other states it can take years.

Let's look at some examples. If you live in the state of California and the case is simple, probate may be completed within eight months, although you may have some delay for the initial court hearing. In Texas the payout is generally within four to eight months. Florida probate generally takes six months.

Consider also that state laws will determine how long creditors have to file claims against the estate. For instance, in California creditors must file their claims within four months. In Illinois they have up to six months. Other states, such as Massachusetts, allow creditors a year to submit creditor claims.

How do I speed up probate on my wifes estate?

Although state laws vary, some states, such as Colorado, may also allow probate short-cuts if the estate is small. For example, if you live in Colorado and the value of assets is below a certain amount you can skip probate by preparing a short document claiming you are entitled to certain assets. This document is called an affidavit.

Keep in mind this process is only available in the state of Colorado if the "fair market value of property that is subject to disposition by will or state intestate succession law, less liens and encumbrances, is $60,000 or less." Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-12-1201.
As mentioned above, states have their own laws to probate a will, but it is worth the effort to find out if your state has a process similar to Colorado's process so you can settle inheritance issues as soon as possible.

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