Probating A Will After Four Years

In our previous post, we discussed what happens to a will if it gets probated within four years of someone’s passing. We looked at this through the lens of estranged beneficiaries, representing a more typical process. Conversely, there are situations where people don’t probate a will after someone has passed away. This could happen for several reasons.

  • People do not understand what probate is or realize they need to retitle assets.
  • An estate could be challenging because it involves disputes among the heirs.
  • Logistical issues may surface. This could result in needing more key documents, e.g., a will, or people needing help locating beneficiaries, i.e., estranged beneficiaries. There could also be tax-related implications.
  • The person responsible for probating the will may have personal matters related to health, financial constraints, or even emotional challenges preventing it from promptly going through probate. 
  • Sometimes, people may deliberately avoid initiating probate for strategic reasons. I.e., there may be concerns about the will’s validity, or they are anticipating challenges from the beneficiaries that are upset about its contents. The “strategic” element indicates how they may want to gather more evidence to build a case for when the will gets challenged. 

Additional Considerations

There are additional legal hurdles when a will goes through probate more than four years after someone’s passing. For instance, you must notify everyone listed as a beneficiary and anyone else who is an heir-at-law if those two lists are different—which they very well could be. The reason behind this is that you must prove that everyone knows that you are probating the will after the deadline. 

After four years, people’s lives and mindsets can be staggeringly different from when the person passed away. They have grieved and processed the loss which can make them more or less likely to care about what they may be entitled to. In this situation, the executor, the person in charge of probating the will, will take several steps to locate and notify the groups of people we mentioned earlier. Common examples of this include certified mail, notice by publication, and possibly hiring a private investigator to locate estranged or unknown beneficiaries. 

Continue This Discussion with a Probate and Estate Planning Attorney 

The Law Offices of Debbie Cunningham assist clients with legal issues connected to probate. We also guide our clients through the estate planning process. Regardless of your circumstances, we will create an estate plan that fits your needs and goals. If you have further questions or are ready to speak with an attorney, contact our office today to schedule your consultation. 

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Law Offices of Debbie J. Cunningham

Debbie Cunningham is an Irving attorney providing affordable estate planning to the Dallas/ Fort-Worth areas. She understands the steps you should take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Debbie is family-focused and wants to ensure her clients are fully informed on the options that are available for their families. Debbie’s own blended family has given her valuable insights into the complexities of family dynamics.

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