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FAQ: How long does probate take?

The probate process can be a complex situation to navigate. And dealing with such a complicated process after losing a loved one can be distressing. 

Because of all of the details and emotions involved in this process, California families are often left with a lot of questions when they are facing the probate process. One of the most common questions that families have is: how long could probate really take?

Stories about probate can create misconceptions of how long it takes

Many people hear stories about celebrity estates that take years to administer. One of the most recent examples involves singer Tom Petty's estate, which is locked in a dispute between his widow and his daughters.

Stories like this lead many people to worry about how long it will take their family to complete the probate of their loved one's will.

So, how long does probate take?

How long the probate of a will takes depends on several factors, including, but not limited to:

  • The number of beneficiaries: Naturally, the more beneficiaries there are in the will or other estate planning documents, the longer the estate administration process could take.
  • Complex assets: Larger estates with complex assets can also prolong the probate process. Those who own complex assets, such as a home or small business assets, often include specific instructions in their wills on how to handle this property. And following these instructions to ensure the property is distributed correctly can take time.
  • Disputes: Not many families expect to run into conflict during probate. However, when emotions are high after the loss of a loved one, it is easy for family members to fall back into old rivalries or disputes. And there is no doubt that disputes can make the probate process longer as well. 
  • Will contests: Along the same line as disputes, will contests are often time-consuming as well, since they involve time to gather evidence and resolve issues through hearings. 

All of these factors can influence how long the probate process may take. However, the average duration of the probate process usually ranges between a few months up to a year. 

The thought of managing probate after losing a loved one can be overwhelming. It is often helpful for families to consult an experienced probate attorney to better understand their options for moving forward.

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