There are a number of factors that can impact how long it takes to probate a will. This article discusses several of those factors to provide a better understanding of just how long it takes to probate a will in Texas.
Probate A Will Versus Administration of the Estate
I want to make an important distinction that is not always obvious to clients. There is a difference between probating a will and administering the estate.
Probating a will is the process of proving up the will to admit the will to probate and the court issuing letters testamentary to the executor. This all occurs prior to administration of the deceased’s estate.
Administration is the actual process of the executor providing notices to creditors, collecting assets, paying debts, and distributing the estate to the devisees under the will.
Factor #1: Location
A big factor in just how long it will take to probate a will is the location of the probate proceeding.
This is fairly obvious. If you live in a large county such as Dallas County or Harris County, then it is going to take longer from the time that you file an application to probate a will. There are simply more hearings in larger counties so it takes longer to get on the court’s calendar.
But there may be some delay in smaller counties as well.
County Judges are responsible for conducting probate proceedings in smaller counties in Texas. Some of those counties may only schedule probate proceedings on a limited number of days each month. That may impact how long it takes to probate a will.
Factor #2: Whether the Will is Self-Proved
Whether or not the deceased and witnesses signed a self-proving affidavit that is attached to the will can impact how long it takes to probate a will.
If the will is self-proved, then only the applicant (the person asking for the will to be admitted to probate – usually the named executor) will need to appear at the hearing.
If the will is not self-proved, then you will need to have at least one additional witness appear at the hearing to admit the will to probate. This could be a witness to the will or other witnesses to testify to the signatures.
The more people that are required, the more complex it becomes to coordinate everyone’s schedule to attend a hearing to admit the will to probate.
Factor #3: Finding Witnesses
If you do need to have witnesses in order to prove up the will, then it can sometimes take a while to find those witnesses.
Clients commonly bring wills to my office that were executed 10, 20, or 30+ years ago. If those wills were not self-proved, then we have to go through the effort of trying to find the witnesses that signed the will. This takes time.
If we can’t find those witnesses, then we will need to find witnesses who are familiar with the deceased’s signature. That can be more difficult than you might think. Ask yourself – how many people sign handwritten letters these days?