In most cases, the decedent’s (person who passed away) worldly possessions will become their “estate” and will need to go through the Probate court process before distributing to the heirs.
Probate is the legal process where all assets and belongings of a deceased person are collected and distributed to the rightful heirs. The rightful heirs are identified using a valid will, if available. If there is no valid will, the estate will be distributed according to the intestate rules in the specific state. These rules specifically prioritize all parties that could potentially receive funds from the estate: creditors, family members, caretakers, etc.
Every state in the US sets its own set of laws that control the Probate courts within its borders. Additionally, some specific counties introduce additional regulations in their jurisdictions. Many states have enacted all or part of the Uniform Probate Code (UPC). That said, 33 of the 51 jurisdictions in the United States have not adopted the entire UPC.
According to a comprehensive study of the Probate process done by AARP, the average time to distribute an estate in the United States is 17 months. Most heirs are extremely surprised that they won’t receive their rightful inheritance for a full year and a half.
There are a number of factors that affect the Probate timeline. Here are just a few:
- How long it takes to get real estate on the market and sell
- Complexity of the tax situation (for example: 9 month minimum if Federal estate tax return is needed)
- Disputes between heirs on the validity of a will or how assets should be distributed
- Disputes over external and internal claims on the estate
- Types of assets in the estate (cash only estates are much easier than estates with business or valuables that need to be appraised and sold
- Mandatory creditor claims period (often 90 days)
- Efficiency of the Personal Representative and estate attorney working to close and distribute the estate
You don’t have to wait! With an inheritance advance from IFC, you can access your rightful inheritance right away. You choose how much of your inheritance you’d like to receive and there are no restrictions on how you use your money. For more information, call our friendly staff right away to learn more: 1-800-944-2072
Almost all states have rules in place where if the value of the estate is very small, you may be able to go through an easier probate process. In many cases, you can avoid the full delays of the inheritance process by using affidavit procedure or summary probate for small estates — say less than $75,000 in total assets for example. Every state has different rules and limits. Be sure to check in the state of your specific estate.
This is one of the most confusing aspects of the probate process for heirs. The estate attorney works with the Personal Representative only and only represents the estate itself. The estate attorney is not obligated to pass information along to various heirs in the estate. This can be very frustrating for heirs who feel left in the dark about the state of affairs in the estate.
The person in charge of handling estate assets, usually the executor or Personal Representative, is in charge of filing tax returns and paying tax bills. Every state handles State inheritance and estate taxes differently but a Federal Estate Tax only applies to very large estates – $5.34M+ in 2014.