How Long Do You Have to File Probate After Death

Clients Rate Lawyers on our Platform 4.9/5 Stars
based on 5,649 reviews

Jump to Section

Need help with a Power of Attorney?

Create a free project posting

The time limit to file probate after a person's death in the United States depends on the state where the person lived and died. Each state has its own probate laws, and the deadlines vary.

Essential Steps in Probate

Probate is a legal process after a person dies to administer their estate. The probate process varies by state, but some essential steps are common in most states:

  1. Filing a Petition. The first step in the probate process is to file a petition with the court. The petition is usually filed by the executor named in the deceased person's will or by a family member if there is no will.
  2. Notification. Once the petition is filed, the court will notify all interested parties, including heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors.
  3. Inventory. The executor will prepare an inventory of the deceased person's assets and debts. This includes bank accounts, real estate, personal property, and any debts owed.
  4. Notice to Creditors. The executor will notify creditors of the probate proceeding and allow them to file a claim against the estate.
  5. Payment of Debts and Taxes. The executor will pay the deceased person's debts and taxes from the estate.
  6. Distribution of Assets. Once all debts and taxes are paid, the executor will distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the will or heirs according to state law if there is no will.
  7. Final Accounting. The executor will prepare a final accounting of the probate proceedings and file it with the court.

Processing Time of Probate

Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, which typically involves identifying and gathering the deceased person's assets, paying any outstanding debts or taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the deceased person's heirs or beneficiaries. The processing time of probate in the United States can vary widely depending on several factors, including the complexity of the estate, the size of the estate, and the laws of the state where the probate is taking place.

  • Initiation of Probate: The first step in the probate process is typically initiating probate proceedings. This involves filing a petition with the probate court in the county where the deceased person lived, along with the death certificate and any relevant estate planning documents, such as a will or trust. The court will then appoint an executor or administrator to oversee the probate process.
  • Inventory of Assets: Once the executor or administrator has been appointed, the next step is typically to take an inventory of the deceased person's assets, including any real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal property. This process can take several weeks or months depending on the complexity of the estate.
  • Payment of Debts and Taxes: The executor or administrator is responsible for paying any outstanding debts or taxes the deceased person owes. This can include everything from credit card bills and medical expenses to income taxes and estate taxes. Depending on the estate's size and the tax laws' complexity, this process can take several months or even years.
  • Distribution of Assets: Once all debts and taxes have been paid, the remaining assets can be distributed to the deceased person's heirs or beneficiaries. This process could be relatively simple if the deceased person's will clearly outlines who should receive what assets. However, if there are disputes among family members or complex legal issues involved, this process can take much longer.
Meet some lawyers on our platform

Max N.

6 projects on CC
View Profile

Patrick N.

3 projects on CC
View Profile

Bryan B.

144 projects on CC
View Profile

Donya G.

80 projects on CC
View Profile

When to File Probate

Probate is a legal process after a person has passed away to distribute their assets and settle their debts. The process can be lengthy, and specific guidelines must be followed to ensure it is done correctly. Here is a detailed explanation of when to file a probate in the US.

  • Determine if Probate is Necessary: The first step in filing probate is to determine if it is necessary. Probate is generally required when the deceased person owns assets solely in their name without beneficiary designation or joint ownership. Probate is also necessary if outstanding debts need to be settled.
  • File Probate within the Statutory Time Limit: If probate is necessary, the next step is to file a petition with the appropriate court. The petition must be filed within the statutory time limit, which varies by state but is typically within a few months of the person's passing.
  • Identify and Notify All Heirs and Beneficiaries: Once the petition has been filed, the court will schedule a hearing to determine the will's validity and appoint an executor or administrator. All heirs and beneficiaries must be identified and notified of the hearing.
  • Inventory and Appraise Assets: The executor or administrator will then be responsible for inventorying and appraising the deceased person's assets. This includes bank accounts, investments, real estate, and personal property.
  • Pay Outstanding Debts: All outstanding debts and taxes must be paid before any assets can be distributed to heirs and beneficiaries. The executor or administrator will use the assets from the estate to settle these debts.
  • Distribute Assets: Once all debts have been settled, the executor or administrator can distribute the remaining assets to the heirs and beneficiaries as specified in the will. Without a will, the assets will be distributed according to state law.

Importance of Probate

Probate is the legal process by which a person's assets are distributed after they pass away. In the United States, probate is an important process for several critical purposes.

  • Probate ensures that a deceased person's assets are distributed according to their wishes, as outlined in their will. This process can help prevent disputes among family members and other potential beneficiaries.
  • Probate allows creditors and other parties with legal claims against the deceased person's estate to be paid before any assets are distributed to beneficiaries. This helps ensure the deceased person's debts are settled before their heirs receive their inheritance.
  • Probate can help ensure that the transfer of assets is conducted fairly and transparently. The court supervises the probate process, which can help prevent fraud or other misconduct.
  • Probate can provide closure for family members and loved ones of the deceased. By ensuring that assets are distributed according to the deceased person's wishes, probate can help bring a sense of closure to the grieving process.

In summary, probate is an important process in the United States that serves several critical purposes. It ensures that a person's assets are distributed according to their wishes, settles debts and other claims against the estate, promotes fairness and transparency, and provides closure for loved ones.

Key Terms for Probate

  • Will: A legal document that outlines how a person's assets should be distributed after they pass away.
  • Executor: The person named in a will responsible for managing the deceased person's estate, including distributing assets according to the terms of the will.
  • Probate Court: The court that oversees the probate process, including validating the will, appointing an executor if necessary, and supervising the distribution of assets.
  • Intestate: A person who dies without a valid will is said to have died intestate. In this case, state law determines how the person's assets are distributed.
  • Beneficiary: A person or organization named in a will entitled to receive some or all of the deceased person's assets.

Final Thoughts on Probate

In the United States, probate is an important legal process that ensures that a person's assets are distributed according to their wishes and settles any debts or legal claims against the estate. Probate can provide closure for family members and loved ones, promote fairness and transparency, and prevent fraud or other misconduct.

While probate can be complex and time-consuming, it is essential to estate planning. Proper estate planning can help minimize the time and costs associated with probate, such as creating a revocable living trust, naming beneficiaries on financial accounts, and keeping a current and valid will.

It is important to seek professional legal advice when dealing with probate, as the laws and procedures can vary from state to state. An experienced probate attorney can help guide you through the process and ensure your loved one's wishes are carried out effectively and efficiently.

If you want free pricing proposals from vetted lawyers that are 60% less than typical law firms, you can click here to get started. By comparing multiple proposals for free, you can save the time and stress of finding a quality lawyer for your business needs.

Need help with a
Power of Attorney?

Create a free project posting

Meet some of our Lawyers

Zachary J. on ContractsCounsel
View Zachary
5.0 (73)
Member Since:
May 27, 2022

Zachary J.

Free Consultation
Crown Point, IN
4 Yrs Experience
Licensed in IL
The University of Michigan Law School

I am a solo-practitioner with a practice mostly consisting of serving as a fractional general counsel to growth stage companies. With a practical business background, I aim to bring real-world, economically driven solutions to my client's legal problems and pride myself on efficient yet effective work.

Angela Y. on ContractsCounsel
View Angela
5.0 (8)
Member Since:
June 16, 2022

Angela Y.

Founder and Managing Partner
Free Consultation
New Jersey
8 Yrs Experience
Licensed in NJ, NY
Rutgers University School of Law

NJ and NY corporate contract lawyer and founder of a firm specializing in helping entrepreneurs. With a background in law firms, technology, and world class corporate departments, I've handled contracts and negotiations for everything from commercial leases and one-off sales agreements, to multi-million dollar asset sales. I love taking a customer-focused and business-minded approach to helping my clients achieve their goals. Other information: learning to surf, lover of travel, and one-time marathoner (NYC 2018)

Angelica M. on ContractsCounsel
View Angelica
5.0 (3)
Member Since:
June 12, 2022

Angelica M.

Managing Attorney
Free Consultation
North Carolina
8 Yrs Experience
Licensed in NC
North Carolina Central University School of Law

Angelica McDonald, Esq. has singlehandedly established an in-demand law firm, won several accolades for her incredible work in her community and has her sights set on building a bi-coastal law practice that serves clients from her hometown to Hollywood. She is putting her city of Raeford, North Carolina on the map as the birthplace of the next legal superstar. And she is just at the onset of her career. An astute attorney, Angelica is sought after for her razor-sharp business acumen and her relentless litigation style. With a diverse background in entertainment, media and sports law, as well as business, she represents entrepreneurs and athletes on everything from complex contract negotiation to intellectual property matters, ensuring anything they’ve built is protected.

Michael T. on ContractsCounsel
View Michael
5.0 (1)
Member Since:
June 13, 2022

Michael T.

Free Consultation
Fairfax, Virginia
33 Yrs Experience
Licensed in DC, MD, VA
College of William and Mary

I have been in practice since 1990 and practice in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. I am an experienced litigator and look forward to resolving your legal questions as efficiently as possible.

Richard G. on ContractsCounsel
View Richard
5.0 (1)
Member Since:
June 20, 2022

Richard G.

Free Consultation
Greensboro, NC
3 Yrs Experience
Licensed in NC
University of Elon School of Law

Hello! I am an Iowa native trying to bring some Midwest problem-solving to southern civil law. I thoroughly enjoy getting to know the individuals and businesses I assist. I practice estate planning and business formation and, with my litigation experience in mind, I help clients plan to ensure they and their interests are protected in the future.

Danielle G. on ContractsCounsel
View Danielle
5.0 (2)
Member Since:
July 12, 2022

Danielle G.

Attorney and Founder at Danielle D. Giovannone Law Office
Free Consultation
Schenectady, NY
16 Yrs Experience
Licensed in NY
Fordham University School of Law

Danielle Giovannone is the principal of Danielle D. Giovannone Law Office. In her experience, Danielle has found that many business do not require in-house legal counsel, but still need outside counsel that knows their business just as well as in-house counsel. This need inspired Danielle to start her firm. Before starting her firm, Danielle served as Contracts Counsel at Siena College and as an attorney at the New York City Department of Education, Office of the General Counsel. At the NYCDOE, she served as lead counsel negotiating and drafting large-scale commercial agreements, including contracts with major technology firms on behalf of the school district. Prior to the NYCDOE, Danielle worked as an associate at a small corporate and securities law firm, where she gained hands-on experience right out of law school. Danielle has provided legal and policy advice on intellectual property and data privacy matters, as well as corporate law, formation and compliance, employer liability, insurance, regulatory matters, general municipal matters and non-profit issues. Danielle holds a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law and a B.S. from Cornell University. She is active in her Capital District community providing pro bono services to the Legal Project, and has served as Co-Chair to the Niskayuna Co-op Nursery School and Vice President of Services to the Craig Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization. Danielle is a member of the New York State Bar Association.

Anand A. on ContractsCounsel
View Anand
5.0 (25)
Member Since:
July 17, 2022

Anand A.

Free Consultation
Philadelphia, PA
9 Yrs Experience
Licensed in NJ, PA
Rutgers University School of Law

Anand is an entrepreneur and attorney with a wide-ranging background. In his legal capacity, Anand has represented parties in (i) commercial finance, (ii) corporate, and (iii) real estate matters throughout the country, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Arizona, and Georgia. He is well-versed in business formation and management, reviewing and negotiating contracts, advising clients on financing strategy, and various other arenas in which individuals and businesses commonly find themselves. As an entrepreneur, Anand is involved in the hospitality industry and commercial real estate. His approach to the legal practice is to treat clients fairly and provide the highest quality representation possible. Anand received his law degree from Rutgers University School of Law in 2013 and his Bachelor of Business Administration from Pace University, Lubin School of Business in 2007.

Michael R. on ContractsCounsel
View Michael
Member Since:
May 30, 2022

Michael R.

Free Consultation
11 Yrs Experience
Licensed in CA
Whittier Law School (Top 5%)

If you're looking for an attorney who can help your business succeed, look no further! With my experience in the legal field, I can provide you with the legal advice you need with entity formation, contract drafting, business operations, and more, And because I'm committed to providing high quality service, you can be sure that your needs will always be met. Contact me today to learn more about how I can help your business thrive!

Jason Q. on ContractsCounsel
View Jason
Member Since:
June 12, 2022

Jason Q.

Attorney / Owner
Free Consultation
Sarasota, Florida
15 Yrs Experience
Licensed in FL
Wake Forest University School of Law

I am a Florida estate planning and probate attorney helping clients achieve their goals through personalized legal strategies. Excellent communication, thorough preparation, and accurate execution are the keys to success.

AHAJI A. on ContractsCounsel
Member Since:
July 8, 2022


Free Consultation
Houston, TX
24 Yrs Experience
Licensed in NC, TX
Indiana University - IUPUI

Ahaji Amos, PLLC is a Houston-based intellectual property and civil litigation firm servicing clients throughout the U.S.

Michael J. on ContractsCounsel
View Michael
Member Since:
July 14, 2022

Michael J.

Free Consultation
Warren, New Jersey
15 Yrs Experience
Licensed in NJ, NY
New York Law School

Combining extensive experience in litigation and as general counsel for a real estate and private equity company, I provide ongoing guidance and support to clients on a variety of transactional matters, including business formation, partnership agreements, corporate agreements, commercial and residential leasing, and employment issues.

Find the best lawyer for your project

Browse Lawyers Now

Want to speak to someone?

Get in touch below and we will schedule a time to connect!

Request a call

Find lawyers and attorneys by city