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How Long Does it Take to Complete New York Probate?

24 September 2011 7 Comments

That depends. Technically, the term “probate” refers only to the process of having the will approved by the Surrogate’s Court and the executor appointed, a process that often can be completed within a few weeks. However, the length of time is dependent on factors such as the amount of probate cases backlogged in the court, amount of time it takes to locate and notify all heirs, and whether or not there are objections to the will. The probate process will take much longer if there are objections to the will or to the appointment of the executor.

Many people, when referring to the term “probate,” use it to describe the entire process of administering an estate, which takes significantly longer. Once the executor or administrator has been formally appointed by the court, the estate must remain open in Surrogate’s Court for a period of at least seven months from the date of appointment. Those seven months give any creditors of the decedent the right to file claims against the estate for that period of time. If the personal representative were to close the estate or distribute any estate assets to the beneficiaries before the seventh month period expires, the personal representative could be held personally obligated for any legitimate debts of the estate or the decedent.

If it takes one month to have the executor appointed, and an additional seven months for creditors to file claims, this means a minimum of eight months, assuming no complications of any kind. Moreover, taxable estates cannot close until the IRS signs off on the Estate Tax Return Form 706, which must be filed within nine months after the date of death and often takes that long to prepare. Taxable estates optimally can close in 15-24 months. However, most of the work is completed in the first nine months of a taxable estate, while the rest of the time is spent waiting for IRS review and approval to close the estate.

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Lawrence J. Peck, Esq.
Founder of the Estate Planning New York Group
Manhattan, New York City

P.S. Click here for access to the 26 Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes.


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