“How long will it take” is a question often asked in a Pennsylvania probate proceeding. A typical probate proceeding in Pennsylvania takes at least one to two years. There are many factors that affect the length of the probate process. Some of these factors are the result of time periods imposed by Pennsylvania law, while others are case-specific.
A Typical Probate Proceeding In Pennsylvania: Between One and Two Years
There are two main factors that will determine the length of a “typical” probate proceeding. “Typical” probate proceeding means one without litigation, fighting beneficiaries, complicated assets, or other roadblocks that impede the efficient administration of the estate.
First, the one-year at-risk distribution period almost always means that a Pennsylvania probate is completed outside of the one-year mark. The one-year at-risk distribution period puts a personal representative on the hook if the personal representative makes distributions within one year of the advertisement of letters OR following receipt of a creditor claim. See 20 Pa. C.S. § 3532. We have previously written about the one-year at-risk period while discussing creditor claims in Pennsylvania probate. The mandatory deadline and timelines that must be observed in a Pennsylvania probate cases make the completion of a probate under one year unlikely.
Second, the filing of the Decedent’s final income tax return can also impact how long probate will take in Pennsylvania. If the decedent died late in the year, then the final return will be due shortly after death. However, if the Decedent died in the early part of the year, then the final income tax return may not be able to be filed until over a full year after Decedent’s death. The timing of the filing of the last tax return can easily extend the administration of the probate estate closer to the two-year mark.
Probate Litigation In a Pennsylvania Estate: Beyond Two Years
If probate litigation is initiated over a decedent’s Pennsylvania estate, the question of how long probate will take becomes anyone’s guess.
A Pennsylvania will contest will greatly lengthen how long it takes to probate the estate. The parties need to conduct discovery, mediate the case, and, if attempts to settle are unsuccessful, attend trial.
If a will contest is brought, sometimes the issue of whether a no-contest clause in a will must be enforced is an issue that has to be litigated during or after the will contest trial. This can extend the time that it takes to probate the estate by several months.
Another issue that can arise is the conduct of the personal representative during what started out as a routine Pennsylvania estate administration. If a personal representative is not administering the estate faithfully, or is abusing the role as fiduciary, litigation is brought against the personal representative. Any litigation by or against the personal representative must be resolved before the Pennsylvania estate can be closed.
Litigation over creditor claims can also influence how long it takes to probate an estate in Pennsylvania. Until the amount that an estate might owe to a creditor is determined with finality, the Pennsylvania estate cannot be closed.
Finally, an estate with litigation over tax liabilities can easily extend beyond two years.
Every estate administration is different. Your Pennsylvania probate lawyer is the best person to advise you how long probate will take in the particular administration you are involved with.