If a loved one has recently passed, you may have been named as a beneficiary to his or her estate. However, you may not get any of your inheritance until after the probate process has been concluded. A probate case allows a judge to verify that a person’s will is valid and reflects his or her true wishes.

How long does a probate case take to complete?

There is no definite answer as to how long probate can take to complete. However, the probate timeline can be influenced by the size of the estate and how many beneficiaries there are. It may also take longer to settle an estate if legal challenges are made or if there are issues with a final tax return. As a general rule, expect to spend about two years dealing with probate issues if you are representing the estate.

Breaking down the probate timeline

The first step in a probate proceeding is filing a petition to open the case, and this step can take up to four months to complete. During this time, the will is verified, the executor is formally appointed, and all potential heirs are identified and contacted.

During the first 12 months after a probate petition has been filed, creditors will be contacted and allowed to file claims against the estate. If a deceased person owes money to the government or other creditors, those balances will need to be paid.

It can take up to 18 months for assets to be distributed to heirs. It can also take up to 18 months for a discharge order to be issued by a judge, and after that happens, any remaining funds inside of the estate can be distributed. At that point, the probate case will be closed, and a deceased person’s affairs will be officially settled.

If you have any questions about probate or anything else related to settling a person’s estate, it may be a good idea to contact an estate litigation attorney. He or she may be able to answer those questions or take other steps to help you work through a given situation.