How Long Will a Typical Probate Case Take?

One of the first questions a client will ask me when coming to my office for probate is how long is this going to take? (The second, of course, is how much is it going to cost.) Potential executors are overwhelmed with the thought of managing someone else’s funeral, medical bills, mortgage and house. And, of course, beneficiaries want to be paid. Some would like their inheritance yesterday.

A good rule of thumb is about eight months to a year. There are many variables which determine how quickly the case may take, but the typical timeline for a probate in Alameda County or the surrounding area is as follows:

  1. If the future executor hires an attorney right away (which rarely happens) then it will likely take about 2 weeks to get the attorney the necessary information to file a petition for probate.
  2. The court will set a date about 45 days from the filing of the petition for probate. If all of the necessary information is provided to the court and there are no objectors, then letters are issued to the executor or administrator.
  3. This begins the time for filing creditor claims. One of the major differences between the length of time a trust and a probate administration takes, is the mandatory four month period, after the issuance of letters, for the creditors of the decedent to file a claim against the estate.
  4. While awaiting the credit claim period to run, the executor will gather the decedent’s assets, file an inventory with the court, pay valid creditors and decide whether to sell the family home. The length of this process varies, depending on whether all of the assets are known, if there are major bills, and whether the executor is receiving any help from family and beneficiaries.
  5. At the end of the creditors’ claim period, if the assets and debts have been properly accounted for, the executor will file a final accounting, and a petition for final distribution with the court. Once filed, it may take another six weeks to get approved, if everything is done correctly. Then, the executor may begin the process of distributing the estate to the heirs and beneficiaries.

One can see that the business of distributing an estate can be a long process. This is why executors often hire an attorney to help with the process so that few mistakes are made and the process can go as speedily as possible.