How Long Does it Take to Probate An Estate?

The time it takes to Probate an estate will ultimately depend on the assets and liabilities of the deceased and whether or not his or her affairs were in order at the time of death. If the deceased’s estate was complicated, it may take a considerable period of time to determine precisely what assets were held and debts owed by the deceased; and thereafter to discharge any debts and taxes. Alternatively, there may be difficulties locating beneficiaries or even legal challenges to the legality of the will or even the provisions of the Last Will. Each of these events is likely to cause a delay in the Probate process should they occur. 

Each state has its own set of procedures for Probate and these will need to be complied with. Some states even have procedures for ‘small estates’ which can speed up the Probate process. Taking all of these factors into account, Probate can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months to a number of years. By way of simple example, the average time taken to Probate an Estate in California is 7 to 9 months, if all goes well. Of course, if there is a legal challenge to the Last Will or some other lawsuit, the probate process can be substantially delayed. There are many probates which have been ongoing for decades!

Generally speaking, however, Probate should be completed within one year. This period of time is known as the ‘Executor’s year’. If, for whatever, reason Probate has not been completed within that time frame, the Executor may be required to file a status report with the Probate Court to provide an explanation of what still has to be done to complete Probate and an estimate of how much time it’s likely to take.

In the event that the Executor fails to report, the beneficiaries under a will can ask the Probate Court to make an order requiring the filing of such a report and/or can take any other action they deem necessary to close probate including the removal of the executors and personal representative and the appointment of someone else in their stead.


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Executors Guide to Probate

How To Probate An Estate - A Step-By-Step Guide for Executors


This book is essential reading for anyone contemplating acting as an executor of someone’s estate! Learn about the various stages of probate and what an executor needs to do at each stage to successfully navigate his way through to closing the estate and distributing the deceased’s assets.

Published December 2010

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