How Long Does It Take to Settle an Estate in Santa Barbara?

how long does it take to settle an estate

Are you currently dealing with the process of settling an estate in Santa Barbara? If so, you may be wondering how long it will take before everything is resolved. It’s completely understandable to feel overwhelmed and uncertain during this time.

But don’t worry, we’re here to help.

In some situations, Santa Barbara County probate may take several weeks or a few months; in others, it could take well over a year.

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through settling an estate in Santa Barbara, including potential delays and helpful tips to keep in mind.

Read on to learn more, or book a planning session with our probate attorneys today.

California’s Probate Process & Timeline

California’s probate process is a court-supervised procedure that ensures an estate’s assets are distributed according to the law. As mentioned above, the probate timeline can last a few weeks to a year or so, sometimes much longer in more complex cases.

Some of the essential steps involved in California’s probate process include:

  • Filing a petition for probate with the probate court
  • Appointing an executor or administrator to manage the estate
  • Identifying and inventorying the estate’s assets
  • Notifying creditors and settling outstanding debts and taxes
  • Obtaining court approval for asset distribution
  • Distributing the remaining assets to the estate beneficiaries.
  • Closing the probate case with the court.

California has some unique laws that can impact the probate process. If the estate is valued under $166,250, it may qualify for a simplified small estate process, which can expedite the timeline for settlement.

Understanding California’s probate process and timeline can help you better navigate the estate settlement process and ensure a smoother resolution for all involved parties.

7 Factors That Impact the Estate Settlement Process

The estate administration process can be affected by various factors that can either expedite or delay its progress. Here are seven factors that could affect your loved one’s estate.

Location of the Parties

In today’s world, families are often spread out all over the country or, in some cases, across the globe. Where an executor of an estate lives can affect how long it takes to move through the probate process. Even though we live in a time where scanners, faxes, and emails exist, some documents require an original signature. If the executor or personal representative lives more than a driving distance from where the probate estate is being handled, the process can take a bit more time.

Number of Beneficiaries

The more people involved, the longer things are going to take. Documents must be sent to all parties for signatures and returned to the attorney or probate court. If the beneficiaries all live in different states or areas, the time it’ll take to get those documents sent back and forth will be longer.

Will or No Will

If the deceased did not leave a will, expect a longer wait. The probate court will be more involved in an estate not subject to a will. A judge will appoint an executor, and the law will determine how the estate is distributed to the heirs. When much of the process is left to the court to handle because there is no will, estate settlement will take much longer.

A Contested Will

Even when the deceased has left behind a will, an estate settlement can be delayed if one of the beneficiaries decides to contest the will. If there is any reason to believe that the will was signed under duress, that the deceased lacked the mental capacity to create the will, that the will was not properly signed, or that there was any fraud involved, the validity of the will can be called into question. Naturally, this will delay the probate process.

A Taxable Estate

Before any part of the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries, there needs to be a determination as to whether or not the estate is taxable. If an estate is taxable, it cannot be closed until a letter is received from the Internal Revenue Service, which may take several months. State and estate taxes can also slow things down, especially if the deceased owned property in multiple states.

Complicated Assets

A person who owns multiple properties, has several investments, and owns a business will have a more complicated and lengthy probate process than someone who owns very few assets and has no investments. In some states, settling the estate of an individual whose assets are valued below a specific amount is as simple as transferring those assets to surviving beneficiaries. This could happen within a couple of months or even weeks.

How to Avoid Santa Barbara County Probate Completely

Working with a probate attorney can help you avoid probate in Santa Barbara County entirely. Your attorney can work with you to ensure your assets go into a living trust to automatically pass them to your surviving beneficiaries.

They can also advise you on how to set up your assets, including real estate, to allow them to easily be transferred to your spouse or children.

Make Probate Stress Free—Contact Our Probate Lawyers Today

There’s no easy way to say how long Santa Barbara County probate should take, but one year is a good rule of thumb. An estate with a clear will and beneficiaries who can get along may take less than a year. In contrast, one that involves taxes, challenges, multiple attorneys, or other complications can drag on much longer.

If you have questions about an estate that must go through probate or want to set up an estate plan to ensure that your heirs can avoid probate in Santa Barbara County when you are gone, contact us to schedule a consultation.

Author Bio

Julianna Malis is the Founder and Managing Partner of Santa Barbara Estate Planning & Elder Law, a Santa Barbara estate planning law firm she founded in 2014. With more than 25 years of experience practicing law, she has dedicated her career to representing clients in a wide range of legal matters, including estate planning, elder law, Medicaid and Medicare planning, probate, and other estate planning areas.

Julianna received her Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific — McGeorge School of Law and is a member of the California State Bar Association.

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