Probate can be easily avoided, but most estates are dragged through the process. Why? Many people fail to create an estate plan, so probate is required. And – others plan with just a Will, so probate is required. In Montana, the probate process is fairly streamlined, and should not necessarily be avoided. However, the process does take time and
can drag on for months – or even years. Here are some of the most common reasons why probate takes so long:
1. Many Beneficiaries. In general, estates with many beneficiaries take longer to probate than estates with just a few beneficiaries.
Why? It takes time to communicate with each and every beneficiary and, if documents need to be signed, there are always beneficiaries who fail to return their signed documents in a timely manner. Regardless of advances in modern technology and communications, it simply takes a long time to reach multiple beneficiaries, spread out across the United States or in a foreign country.
2. Estate Tax Return. Estates, required to file an estate tax return at the state and/or federal level, are usually complicated. And, the personal representative can’t make a final asset distribution until she is absolutely sure that the estate tax return has been accepted and the estate tax bill has been paid in full. At the federal level, it can take up to a year before the IRS gets around to reviewing and accepting an estate tax return.
3. Angry Beneficiaries. Nothing can drag out the probate process like a family feud. When beneficiaries don’t get along or won’t speak to each other, the personal representative may be forced to go to court to get permission to do just about everything. That takes time.
4. Incompetent Personal Representative. A personal representative, who is not good with money, irresponsible, disorganized, or busy with his job or family, will drag probate on and on. Why? Because a personal representative must efficiently and effectively handle the responsibilities and duties that go along with serving. It’s a lot of work.
5. Hard to value assets. If there are assets in the estate of value, but it is difficult to ascertain the value of the asset, it can be tricky and time consuming to obtain an appraisal.