As a qualified Shreveport probate attorney, it is not uncommon to hear the question “How long does probate take?” It only makes sense that people would want the probate process to hurry along. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is devastating enough as is, and spending your time worrying about the distribution of their things certainly doesn’t assist in the grieving process. That’s where the probate process comes in. Probate is a legal process that affects nearly everyone who passes away, but is often confusing to the family members left behind. So, how does the probate process work, what should you know about it, and how long does it take? 

Shreveport probate lawyer Joseph Greenwald, Jr. is well-practiced in ALL estate planning and distribution matters, including probate. If you need assistance with the probate process or have any further questions, call the Greenwald Law Firm for more information.

What is probate?

Imagine a world where everything you own has to be given away. You either have to take inventory of all your belongings and divide them amongst your loved ones or you allow the state to distribute your items as they see fit. This is essentially what probate is. It is the division of your assets and property following your passing away.

After someone dies, property and possessions are distributed by what we call the probate process. You may also hear it called succession. These legal proceedings ensure that following said death, everything goes to whoever or wherever it is supposed to go. If the decedent left a will, the court will check its validity and then carry out those instructions. If there was not a will left behind, it will be up to the statutes of the state to determine who inherits what and in what proportions. 

How does probate work?

Each state possesses its own probate laws, though most laws are similar throughout the country. Whether you’re writing your will or you’re an executor or beneficiary, it’s good to have a basic understanding of how everything works so nothing falls through the cracks.

For most states, including Louisiana, the legal process of probate requires the following actions:

  • Proving the validity of the decedent’s will, if any.
  • Identifying and making an inventory of the decedent’s assets.
  • Appraisal of the assets.
  • Payment of debts and taxes owed.
  • Distributing assets as either the will or state law instructs.

Simply put, the probate process works by way of a court proceeding where the conditions of the will are read aloud and the distribution of inheritances takes place. More specifically, after a person’s death, the individual they named as an executor (by will) or the person appointed by a judge (no will/by state law) files the correct paperwork within the probate court. It is this individual’s duty to prove the validity of the will and present the assets to the court as well as to whom they are going. This includes anything from real property to valuables and belongings to debts. 

The executor of the will has a few very important duties. (See our blog: What an Executor of a Will Can and Cannot Do) One of their jobs is to secure and manage these assets throughout the probate process. Once granted permission by the court, they may pay any debts and taxes owed by the decedent and divide the remaining assets among heirs or beneficiaries.  

How long does the probate process take?

There is no short answer for how long the probate process will take. As with most things related to law, the duration of the process simply depends on the facts of the case. The American Bar Association (ABA) estimates the average estate probate takes about six to nine months. However, it may be quicker than that or could even take longer, depending on your specific situation. 

The speed of a probate process depends on many factors. One thing that can significantly impact the process is the probate laws in your state. The fact that probate laws vary from state to state may be the biggest reason there is no definitive answer. Because it isn’t nationally regulated, state laws can be the difference between a few weeks of probate and a few years. 

Another thing that affects the timespan of the process is the size of the estate. This doesn’t necessarily mean how large the home is, but rather the value of and the amount of assets a person left behind. The more assets, the more decisions will need to take place and the longer the process will likely go on.

Another factor that has a direct impact on the duration of probate is the number of heirs or beneficiaries involved. If there is disagreement among heirs in the handling of an estate, this can seriously slow down the process. 

Finally, the time spent on the probate process depends on whether there is a will or not. If there is a will involved, probate often takes much less time than if not. This isn’t always the case, though. Sometimes there may be a will, but it wasn’t completed properly. This may mean that it wasn’t specific enough or wasn’t signed or notarized correctly.

How long does probate take without a will?

As we mentioned before, having a comprehensive and legally sound will can speed the probate process along by a great deal. However, if the decedent did not leave behind a will, it may very well end up lengthening the process. This may not be by much and isn’t always entirely true, but it can generally be said for most cases. 

In Louisiana, there are two types of probate: testate and intestate. A testate succession occurs when the person had a will that was probated during their lifetime. With a testate inheritance, you can usually assume that the provisions of the will control the distributions.

If the deceased did not leave a will and died without one being created, it is an intestate succession. An intestate succession relies on state laws in determining who inherits what proportionally depending on which relatives survive them first.

Louisiana’s intestate laws establish how a deceased person’s assets are to be distributed among various relatives. The laws declare property distribution to begin with the children and spouse before extending to other descendants and relatives. The exact application of intestate laws in Louisiana largely depends on two factors. These are:

  • Whether or not the assets are community property or separate property.
  • The degree of the relationship of the family member to the deceased party.

These things, and often much more, determine how long probate will take without a will. 

How to Avoid Probate

There are a few ways in which a person might avoid probate in the state of Louisiana. A Shreveport trust lawyer can help you avoid the probate process by use of various estate planning techniques. These techniques may include things such as revocable or irrevocable trusts.

In Louisiana, there are also situations where probate is not necessary at all. If the decedent does not leave a will and the estate is worth less than $75,000 in total, the family may avoid the probate process altogether.

Contact a Shreveport Probate Lawyer Today

Having the guidance and assistance of an experienced Shreveport estate planning attorney is essential when dealing with probate and successions. Seasoned attorney Joseph Greenwald is well-qualified and possesses the skills necessary to guide you through the many complex aspects of the probate process. Call Greenwald Law Firm at 318-219-7867 today for a free consultation regarding your living will or probate wishes.

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