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Why does probate take so long?

The Indiana probate court system can be expensive and time consuming. Most people who have looked into estate planning have read about strategies for avoiding probate. But why does probate take so long and what factors make the process take even longer than usual?

Probate can take several months or even years

When you are planning your estate, it’s important to understand that probate is a government court process. Your case will be one of many, which means that backlogs in the court system can delay an already tedious process. Notifying beneficiaries, getting signed documents returned, valuating assets and other tasks will all be affected by the amount of probate cases that are currently in the system as well as government office hours.

Every extra step that is required in a probate case will add to the time required. For example, an estate with five beneficiaries will take much longer than an estate with one beneficiary. If a beneficiary lives in another state or country, notifying them and getting signed documents returned could further delay proceedings. An estate that has assets in multiple states could require probate processes in multiple states.

Other factors that can cause delays

There are innumerable factors that can potentially cause huge delays in the probate process. Some of the most common types of probate court delays happen because of:

  • Multiple wills
  • Poor choice of your executor
  • Unusual assets that are hard to value
  • Estate tax returns

IRS Form 706 is required for some estates, and the process of filing this form can cause one of the longest delays in the probate system. It typically takes the IRS between six and eight months to approve Form 706 after it’s filed and another three months if the form needs to be amended.

What if beneficiaries have conflicts?

Another problem with the probate process is that there is a greater likelihood of conflict between beneficiaries. Unlike a trust, the details of a probated estate will be a public record. This can lead to disputes between beneficiaries when they are unhappy with how assets were divided.