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Is there a deadline for filing a probate following death?

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Quick Answer

There are deadlines for filing a probate following someone's death, and the requirements vary from state to state, according to LegalZoom. Time limits for probate ensure an efficient process and timely estate closing to benefit all involved parties.

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Delaying probate can have significant consequences for the executor or beneficiaries of a will. In Texas, as of 2015, a will cannot be probated if proceedings were not started within four years of the decedent's death, says LegalZoom. Pennsylvania residents have 21 years to apply for probate, as of 2015, while New Mexico and Montana only allow three years.

Courts have time limits for probate to ensure that deadlines are kept and the probate process moves to completion and closing of the estate, explains LegalZoom. Time limits are also imposed by the court to prevent harassment to the estate beneficiaries and heirs by the deceased's creditors. Some states, however, makes allowances for special circumstances and permit a time limit to be extended. An extenuating circumstance could include a will that is discovered long after the allotted time to probate has passed.

A late probate filing in order to answer questions surrounding the legal ownership of an estate asset may be permitted by some courts, but the court may not allow the appointment of an executor during probate proceedings commencing after the deadline, says LegalZoom.

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