The process of contesting wills can be daunting for people who lack knowledge or experience in dealing with estate issues and local estate laws. One of the primary steps in administering a will is probate, the process of determining a will’s validity and authenticity. Probate is done before the court, which decides whether the last will and testament of the deceased is indeed genuine. If all goes smoothly and no on individual is interested in challenging a will, then the estate is administered as written in the will. But what if there are parties interested in contesting a will? How does this impact the time it takes for probate to take place? Is contesting wills an obstacle when it comes to administering an estate?


Factors That Affect How Long Probate Usually Lasts When No One is Contesting a Will

Contesting a will can delay the probate process. However, in the case where no one is interested in challenging the will, the probate process may last for a shorter period of time. Note that the probate process involves filing a petition to notify heirs and beneficiaries, authenticating the last will, appointing an estate administrator or executor (if there was none named in the will), the identifying and assessing the value of assets, identifying and notifying creditors, ensuring debts are paid, and finally, distributing the estate, as per Cleverism. Throughout these subprocesses, there may be roadblocks or challenges that executors, beneficiaries, and others involved in the administration of the estate may experience. So what factors play a role in the probate process and how long it lasts?


The number of beneficiaries.

“The more, the merrier.” That may not be the case when there are several beneficiaries receiving various parts of an estate. According to The Balance, it also matters where these beneficiaries live. Having documents routed between them for signatures and the like may take more time.


Whether the beneficiaries agree on the terms in the will.

When beneficiaries do not agree on the terms in the will, there is an increased chance of one or more of them contesting a will. They may opt to hire their own will disputes lawyers to ensure the probate process goes smoothly or help them contest the will if they decide to do so. Such will disputes will cause the probate process to take longer to conclude.


The payment of debts and liabilities.

Before assets can be distributed to their respective beneficiaries, the executor of will must ensure that all debts and liabilities have been paid off. This is why the probate process involves identifying and notifying creditors to ensure that they get what they are due and that all pending debts would be paid off. During this period, they are given an opportunity to file a claim to declare what they are owed.


The number of people interested in contesting a will.

The length of any probate process is also dependent on whether or not there are individuals contesting a will. If no one is looking to contest the will and all beneficiaries are satisfied with the portion of the estate they are set to receive, then the probate process should go smoothly. However, when external individuals or disinherited family members contest a will, it is most likely that the probate process will take longer, as their claims need to be validated by estate lawyers and the court must see if they truly deserve a portion of the estate despite being disinherited.


The existence of a will itself.

Ensuring a will exists following one’s death helps family members better deal with the estate left behind. Wills are often used to outline final instructions on which beneficiaries will receive portions of the estate, funeral instructions, and last requests regarding a business, property, or other assets. However, if one dies without having written a will, he is said to have died intestate. In these cases, it’s the responsibility of the probate court to determine the beneficiaries of this person’s estate, based on the applicable local intestate succession laws, as per FindLaw. Because there were no clear instructions or last requests, the probate court will have to determine a representative and identify the heirs of the estate before proceeding with the probate process and distributing the assets.


The probate process can take anywhere between 6 to 24 months to be completed, depending on several factors such as listed above. But no matter how long it may take, it is always best to seek counsel from experienced estate lawyers who can provide legal insight on one’s unique situation, as not all estates are the same. Enlisting the help of estate lawyers when contesting wills is also beneficial because they can provide in-depth knowledge and advice on applicable estate laws and guidance throughout the probate process.