Why Does A Probate Take So Long? What Can Be Done To Speed It Up?

August 12, 2011

The majority of cases requiring probate administration are relatively straight forward matters that do not take a great deal of time. However, there are a variety of instances in which the "typical" probate administration is anything but usual.

For instance, the recent recession has devastated home and land values. Probate estates heavy on these assets are lingering months longer than usual as the Personal Representatives attempt to sell devalued properties in depressed markets. In some instances, these can be circumvented where the heirs are willing to take title to the property into their personal names, rather than waiting for the real estate to be sold. This will permit a much quicker administration of the estate. However, this is impractical if the heirs do not get along requiring the property to be reduced to cash and distributed to the heirs in the proportion allotted to them.

Where there is pending litigation of some sort going on, this can slow down a probate to a crawl. There are numerous reasons why litigation may be necessary. Perhaps the decedent was owed money and the estate needs to collect, or the decedent was financially exploited and the estate is bringing suit to recover money, or there is a challenge to the Will, or a challenge to who should serve as the Personal Representative. A well-crafted estate plan will often alleviate many of these issues - however, even the best estate plans may still be litigated, especially if the potential heirs are at odds with one another, are polarized, or are taking unreasonable positions. Interested parties can help move the estate along by carefully reassessing their positions, and by making a concerted effort to explore all opportunities to find common ground and mutually satisfactory solutions.

People who are appointed as Personal Representatives occasionally do not move as quickly as they should to administer the case. This becomes extremely frustrating to the heirs, and can result in unnecessary and difficult complications. A failure to move the administration of the estate along, absent good cause, can be remedied by the interested parties petitioning the court for removal of the non-performing Personal Representative in favor of a successor.

While we cannot enumerate all issues tending to slow down an estate, our firm has handled literally hundreds of probate cases representing all sides (personal representatives, heirs, creditors, litigation within the probate, etc). If there is a way to speed it up, we can help you find it.