How Long Do You Have to File for Probate After the Death of a Loved One?

Gabriel Katzner - January 22, 2024 - Probate
How Long Do You Have to File for Probate After the Death of a Loved One?

Probate, by its very nature, occurs at the worst possible time—when you are processing the death of a loved one. Probate involves administrative duties that include filing your loved one’s Last Will and Testament with the court and determining how your loved one’s property and accounts should be distributed.

While probate can be a costly, time-consuming, and public process, it does not have to be stressful. You can ease the burden on your loved ones by preparing your estate plan in advance.

What is probate?

Probate is a legal process that provides a means for people to transfer property ownership in their name alone to their heirs or beneficiaries. The probate court will examine a person’s will to determine whether it is valid and authentic. Once this occurs, the legal transfer of their assets to their beneficiaries can begin.

If there is no will, intestacy laws will determine how a person’s assets will be distributed.

The probate process can involve:

  • Identifying and inventorying a person’s assets
  • Having the property appraised
  • Paying off debts and taxes
  • Distributing the property following the will or state law

The executor, or personal representative, is the person who is responsible for administering the estate, handling the decedent’s final affairs, and ensuring that their wishes are carried out as expressed in their will.

How long do you have to file probate after a loved one’s death?

The probate process does not automatically begin after a death. It will not open until a family member files a probate petition with the court.

The probate process varies by state, but it can entail a long process that takes months and sometimes years.

The sooner you, another family member, or the person named as the executor of the will file the petition for probate, the sooner the process can begin.

The time frame for filing probate varies by state. In some states, the process must begin within 30 days of the decedent’s death. If the executor does not file within 30 days, this may indicate that they are waiving their right to be the executor. In this case, the family may choose to file a small estate affidavit instead. If this is their intent, they must wait until 40 days have passed since the death.

Some states may be more lenient with their timeline, but in general, it is best to file a probate petition as soon as possible. The executor or family member will present the decedent’s will to the probate court at the same time that they complete the petition for probate.

What’s the Probate Filing Deadline in San Diego?

In San Diego, an executor is expected to submit a will to the probate court within 30 days of the decedent’s death. The sooner you seek the assistance of an attorney, the better.

Retaining an experienced probate attorney in San Diego can provide you with the guidance and support necessary to meet the filing deadline and ensure a smooth probate process. We will help you gather the required documentation, file the necessary paperwork, and handle any potential disputes or challenges that may arise.

What’s the Probate Filing Deadline in New York?

In New York, there is no strict deadline for filing for probate after the death of a loved one. However, the sooner you file, the easier it can be to handle the estate’s affairs.

Filing for probate promptly allows you to protect and preserve the assets of the deceased, ensuring they are properly distributed according to their wishes. It also allows you to address any outstanding debts or taxes owed by the estate.

While there is no specific time limit, it is highly recommended to consult with a knowledgeable probate attorney as soon as possible after the death of a loved one.

What happens if you don’t file for probate on time (or at all)?

Probate is time-sensitive after the death of a loved one. If you fail to file for probate within the specified time frame, or if you neglect to file at all, it can have significant consequences.

One of the potential ramifications of not filing for probate on time is the loss of the ability to distribute the deceased person’s assets according to their wishes. Without the proper legal documentation, it becomes challenging to transfer property titles, sell assets, or distribute funds from bank accounts. This can cause delays and complications, leaving family members and beneficiaries in a state of uncertainty and financial hardship.

Furthermore, not filing for probate can also lead to legal disputes and challenges from heirs or creditors. Without a clear legal process in place, it becomes easier for interested parties to contest the distribution of assets or make claims against the estate. This can result in lengthy and costly court battles that deplete the estate’s value and lead to strained relationships among family members.

Retaining an attorney experienced in probate law can help with these challenging situations and ensure that the probate process is initiated and completed correctly. An attorney can guide you through the necessary steps, ensuring compliance with all legal requirements and deadlines.

By involving an attorney from the beginning, you can protect your rights and the interests of the estate, avoiding unnecessary delays, disputes, and potential financial losses. Filing for probate on time is essential to protect the assets and interests of the deceased person’s estate and ensure a smooth transition of ownership for their beneficiaries.

Who needs to file for probate?

When a loved one passes away, the process of settling their estate through probate can be daunting and overwhelming. But who exactly is responsible for initiating this process?

Typically, it is the responsibility of the executor named in the deceased person’s will to file for probate. The executor is the person designated by the deceased to administer their estate, and they are usually a close family member or a trusted individual. However, if there is no will or if no executor is named, the court will appoint an administrator to handle the probate process.

Regardless of whether there is a will or not, certain individuals may have an interest in the estate and may need to file for probate. These individuals could include heirs, beneficiaries, or creditors who are looking to protect their rights and ensure they receive what they are entitled to. Consult a qualified probate attorney to determine if you have a legal standing to initiate the probate process.

The probate process can be challenging, especially during an already difficult time of grieving. Working with an experienced probate attorney can alleviate much of the stress and confusion associated with filing for probate. Our attorneys can guide you through the necessary steps, ensure the correct documents are filed, and handle any legal issues that may arise.

If you are named as the executor in a will, you have the responsibility of filing for probate. If there is no will or executor, the court will appoint an administrator. However, other individuals with a legitimate interest in the estate may also need to initiate the probate process. Engaging the help of a knowledgeable and skilled probate attorney can make the entire process smoother and more manageable for everyone involved.

Can you avoid probate?

Probate can be a lengthy and costly process, which is why many people want to know if there is a way to avoid it altogether. While it may not always be possible to completely bypass probate, there are certain strategies that can help minimize its impact on your estate. Consulting with an estate planning attorney can be essential in understanding your options and implementing the best approach.

One option to potentially avoid probate is to establish a living trust. By transferring your assets into a trust, you can ensure that they are managed and distributed according to your wishes without the need for probate. This can help your loved ones avoid the time-consuming and expensive probate process, as assets held in a trust typically pass directly to the beneficiaries named in the trust document.

Another strategy to consider is careful estate planning that includes beneficiary designations. Assets such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and certain financial accounts can have designated beneficiaries. When you pass away, these assets can transfer directly to the designated beneficiaries without going through probate. It’s important to regularly review and update these designations to ensure they align with your current wishes.

While it may not always be possible to completely avoid probate, working with an estate planning lawyer can help you explore options that may minimize your estate property that is subject to the probate process. Our legal team can ensure that your loved ones are well taken care of after your passing and are not burdened by unnecessary probate processes.

What happens during the probate process?

Although the timeline can vary by state, these are the typical steps in the probate process:

  1. File the petition: The named executor fills out the probate petition and death certificate and files the Last Will and Testament with the court. When the court receives the information, a hearing will be scheduled. The judge will open the case and either approve the executor or name an administrator if the decedent has died without a will (intestate).
  2. Notify all interested parties: the executor will notify all interested beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors.
  3. Inventory the assets: After notifying everyone who may have an interest, the executor identifies, collects, and appraises the decedent’s property. An executor frequently hires an appraiser to help with this process if any of the property is difficult to assign a value to or if there is a large estate.
  4. Pay any outstanding debts: Creditors have six months to make their claims on the estate. Once this deadline passes, the executor pays off the decedent’s debts.
  5. Close probate: After all debts have been cleared, the executor asks the probate court for permission to close probate and distribute the remaining assets. The executor will be responsible for carefully accounting for all their activities while paying creditors and distributing assets.

Some smaller estates can go through a simplified probate process. If the decedent’s estate meets specific requirements, it may pass through the probate process more quickly.

Creating a will and nominating an executor is a great place to start your estate planning. Talk to your estate planning attorney about the potential benefits of moving your assets and property into a trust. With proper estate planning, trust-owned assets can pass right to their beneficiaries without going through the probate process.

Avoid Probate Through Estate Planning Today

Speak to a trusted advisor to help you develop your estate plan. By working with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can ensure you have a proper estate plan in place to minimize probate obligations for your family. Contact our attorneys at Katzner Law Group and schedule a call with us at 855.631.3457 to get started on creating your will, living trust, and other tools that benefit you and your loved ones.


Gabriel Katzner

In 2002, Gabriel Katzner, the founding partner of Katzner Law Group received his Juris Doctorate with honors from the Fordham University School of Law. After spending the first 7 years of his legal career
practicing at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, an international law firm based in New York, he went on to found his own firm.

Gabriel Katzner has a track record, along with a vast number of
outstanding public reviews across platforms, of working hard on behalf of individuals who need assistance with comprehensive
estate planning services. Finding a lawyer who is knowledgeable about revocable and irrevocable trust planning, guardianship for minor children, asset protection, trust administration and probate,
as well as Medi-Cal / Medicaid planning is extremely important.

Years of experience: More than 17 years
Location: San Diego, CA


This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. Furthermore, it has received approval from attorney Gabriel Katzner, an experienced estate planning lawyer with over 17 years of legal expertise.

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