When a parent passes away, the grief and sorrow are often overwhelming. On top of dealing with emotional despair, you may also have to deal with your parent’s financial and personal affairs. This is especially true if the deceased named you the executor of his or her estate.

Part of your duties may entail going through probate. This is a process that validates a will and ensures the executor manages the estate correctly, including paying off debts and distributing assets to beneficiaries. Probate can take months to years, depending on a few factors.

The will

If your parent did not create estate plans before passing away, the process may take longer. If you have the legal right to, you will have to petition the court to become the executor of the estate. Another situation that can lengthen the process is having a questionable will. Family members tend to dispute a will that has one or more following traits:

  • The document is old. This is a sign a will may not reflect the circumstances of your parent and the family when he or she died.
  • The will is handwritten. Although holographic wills are acceptable in New York, they must meet strict requirements and are hard to validate.
  • The plans leave out certain family members. If someone wishes to disinherit a loved one, it is best to explicitly state it and make the family aware. The same goes for including unusual beneficiaries, such as a caregiver, friend or pet.

On the other hand, a current, thorough will makes probate go by faster.

The estate

The complexity of the estate is another influential factor. Estates that have few or low-value assets often have an easier time going through probate. Assets in trusts are not subject to this legal process.

The executor

The fewer mistakes the executor makes, the smoother the proceedings go. Errors lead to costly delays and can even end in the court removing you (or whoever is the executor) from the role and appointing someone else. All this will take time.