If you have recently taken on the role of estate executor for a loved one, you already know how overwhelming your duties will be. After you have inventoried the estate and notified the heirs, there are still dozens of details to take care of before probate is complete. You may have heirs contacting you to find out how much longer they have to wait for their inheritance. Do you know the answer?

Actually, it is nearly impossible to say exactly how long probate will last. Many factors can complicate even the simplest estates. Even in the world of high-speed internet and other technological marvels, probate typically proceeds through many old-fashioned patterns.

Paperwork and probate

One element of probate that may present complications is the fact that certain documents must be originals, signed and witnessed, so electronic signatures or faxed documents will not suffice. For this reason, if your loved one’s attorney or any heirs live a great distance apart, there may be delays for travel time to complete those documents.

The complexity of your loved one’s estate will play a vital role in the speed with which it passes through probate. For example, if your loved one’s mortgage is paid off and he or she maintained a simple bank account, the process may hit no snags. Factors that slow things down may include a family business, multiple properties or outstanding debt. Additionally, a taxable estate means the IRS gets involved, and this may add many months to the average probate.

To heir is human

The most unpredictable element of probate may be the heirs. Beneficiaries who disagree or decide to contest the will certainly create confusion and frustration. Probate cannot proceed until those matters resolve, and, as the executor of the estate, you may find yourself in the middle of these disputes.

Additionally, if there are numerous heirs who are scattered across the globe, you may expect to add significant time to the length of probate. If all the parties involved in the estate live close, probate should proceed smoothly, barring other complications.

As the executor of the estate, you have some control over the length of the process by staying organized and keeping things rolling. If none of these problems slows things down, the average probate for a simple Iowa estate still may take about a year. Because every situation is unique, you may decide to seek assistance from a legal professional who has experience with probate administration and dealing with the factors that may create difficulties for those involved.