There is a very good chance that you will find yourself involved in the probate of an estate at some time during your life. Whether that is because of your appointment as the Executor of an estate or because you are a beneficiary/heir, you probably want to know how long it will take for the estate to get through probate. Although every estate is unique, a Florence probate attorney at Potter Law Firm explains how long the Kentucky probate process typically takes.
Understanding the Probate Process
Probate is the term given to the legal process that eventually transfers those estate assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate. Most estates are required to go through some form of probate. Along with transferring estate assets, probate also serves to ensure that debts of the estate, including federal gift and estate taxes, are paid as well as providing a forum for resolving any challenges to the decedent’s Last Will and Testament. If an estate is required to go through the formal probate process, common steps in that process include:
- Identifying, locating, and valuing all estate assets.
- Opening the probate of the estate by filing a petition, along with an official death certificate, in the appropriate court.
- Notifying creditors of the estate that probate is underway.
- Identifying, locating, and notifying beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate that the estate is being probated.
- Reviewing and approving or denying creditor claims.
- Prioritizing and paying approved claims.
- Selling assets, if necessary, to pay creditors.
- Defending any challenges to the Will or litigating any claims made by creditors that were denied.
- Calculating and paying federal (and state, if applicable) gift and estate taxes
- Making the legal transfer of the remaining assets to the named beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of the estate.
How Long Will Probate Take in Kentucky?
Because every estate is unique, the best way to get an idea how long it will take to probate a specific estate is to consult with an experienced probate attorney. In Kentucky, you can expect it to take a minimum four months to probate even a relatively simple estate if that estate is required to go through formal probate. The reason for this is that creditors must file a claim “within the earlier of (1) eight months after the decedent’s death, (2) six months after the appointment of a personal representative, or (3) within sixty days after a creditor receives “actual notice” from a personal representative.” If no notice was given, creditors could still be filing claims months after probate is initiated, extending the time it takes to probate the estate.
Other factors that can impact the time it takes to probate an estate, such as:
- Whether formal probate is required. Like most states, Kentucky offers an alternative to formal probate for small estates that qualify. The ability to use a small estate alternative can dramatically shorten the time necessary to get through the probate process.
- Size and complexity of the estate. As a rule, the more valuable and complex the estate’s probate assets are, the longer it will take to probate the estate. A large estate can easily take more than a year to probate.
- Probate avoidance planning. A well thought out estate plan can include several helpful probate avoidance tools and strategies that can significantly reduce the time the estate spends in probate. Leaving behind as few probate assets as possible, for example, is an excellent probate avoidance strategy. Some assets, such as assets held in a trust, are considered non-probate assets and bypass the probate process altogether.
- Conflict and litigation. If someone files a Will contest, the ensuing litigation can add months, even years, to the amount of time it takes to probate the estate.
Contact a Florence Probate Attorney
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns about probating an estate, contact an experienced Florence probate attorney at the Potter Law Firm by calling 859-372-6655 to schedule your appointment. Our Ashland, Kentucky office can be reached at 606-324-5516, and our Charlotte and Huntersville, North Carolina offices can be reached at 704-944-3245.