As difficult as it may have been to say a final goodbye to your loved one, you now have another challenge ahead as you approach the probate process for your loved one’s estate. Few people are fortunate enough to have parents or relatives make estate plans to clarify their wishes, and even fewer establish trusts to avoid probate altogether. This often leaves family members with the long and frustrating process of probating the estate.

Whether your loved one left a will or no plan at all, you may have many questions about what to expect as you put your life on hold and deal with the estate. Perhaps your main question is the one most people in your situation ask: How long will this take? While a typical probate for a simple estate may take less than a year, your loved one’s may drag out indefinitely if you encounter any of the common conflicts.

Factors that slow down probate

Certain complications can bring probate to a screeching halt, sometimes before the process has even begun. If your loved one had considerable debt, for example, those creditors have a say in how probate proceeds. If your loved one had no will, you may encounter relatives or friends who insist they have a claim to the estate. However, even with a will in place, your loved one’s probate may take longer than usual if any of the following factors exist:

  • Your loved one named numerous beneficiaries, or the heirs do not live close to the estate.
  • The beneficiaries do not get along, or there is one who is likely to dispute every decision the executor or heirs make.
  • Your loved one’s estate qualifies for federal taxes, which can add as long as a year to the probate process while the IRS completes its part of the tax returns.
  • Your loved one owned unusual assets that may be challenging to value or affect the completion of the federal tax return, such as antiques, art, racehorses or intellectual property rights.
  • Your loved one’s will names an executor who is not right for the job.

The decisions of an estate executor or personal representative can have a significant effect on the probate process. If the heirs dispute the decisions of the executor or suspect the executor of violating his or her fiduciary duties, probate must stop while the Tennessee court deals with the problem. As an heir to the estate, you have rights in this matter. It may be in your best interests to protect your rights and your inheritance by securing your own legal counsel to guide you through the probate process.