After a person dies, his or her estate has to go through probate. During this process, the decedent’s outstanding debts must be paid and then the beneficiaries will receive their assets. If there are no issues, probate can typically be completed in less than a year. However, in some instances, the process can take longer.
Here are a few common reasons why probate can be delayed.
Not all estates have basic assets that are easy to value, such as homes and bank accounts. Some estates have assets that are more difficult to put a value on, such as artwork and collectables. Not all parties may agree on the value of certain assets, which can slow down the probate process. If an asset is not easy to sell, the estate may stay open until someone buys it or a beneficiary claims it.
After someone dies and the executor is officially appointed by the court, creditors will have a certain amount of time to make claims against the estate. This can delay the probate process. In Tennessee, creditors have one year to bring a claim.
If an estate requires the filing of a federal estate tax return, it could slow down probate. The IRS often has several months to review the return. If there is an issue with the return, probate may be delayed even further.
Family Members Who Are Difficult to Reach
When probate begins, the executor is required to contact all the beneficiaries of the estate and have them sign paperwork. However, not all of these people are easy to reach. They may live in a different state or were estranged from the deceased. As you can probably imagine, this can slow down the probate process quite a bit.
Too Many Wills
Some people may have made more than one will in their lifetime. If they create a new will, they should state that it replaces the old will. If they don’t, this can create confusion among beneficiaries. Some beneficiaries may think the new will has better terms while other beneficiaries might think the old will has more favorable terms.
Unfortunately, it is not unusual for family members to fight with each other over a will. Some might not think that they are being treated fairly and decide to contest the will. They may even decide to contest the will in court and hire their own attorneys. This can drag out probate and make everything more stressful for everyone.
Probating an estate can be timely and complicated, so it is important to appoint the right executor. If the executor is disorganized or is not good with finances, he or she can slow down probate.