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Why is there a delay in probate before distributing assets?

On Behalf of | Sep 15, 2022 | Estate Administration & Probate |

In theory, the inheritance that family members receive can be a source of comfort as they adjust to the reality of having lost someone that they love. People may expect to move into a loved one’s home shortly after their funeral, for example. In practice, there is typically a lengthy wait between when someone initially passes on and when their family members and other beneficiaries receive assets from their estate.

Most people will wait many months to receive inherited property. The delay in asset distribution isn’t a sign that the administrator of the estate has failed to do their duty. If anything, a lengthy delay indicates the opposite. Why do beneficiaries often have to wait before receiving their inheritance?

Creditors have a right to make claims first

Although the estate plan created by the deceased clearly names specific beneficiaries for specific assets, the personal representative needs to take other steps before distributing that property. First, they need to initiate probate proceedings and provide the appropriate paperwork and financial records to the courts.

Then, they need to provide written notice to the creditors who may need to make a claim against the estate. Those creditors have seven months from the date the representative issues the notice to make a claim regarding the debt owed by the deceased according to New York probate laws. Valid claims in probate will take priority over the inheritance rights of beneficiaries.

The representative will need to use estate assets to repay those creditors before distributing anything to the beneficiaries. That means that you will typically need to wait at least seven months after probate proceedings begin, possibly longer, to have full access to any inherited property.

What if you worry about the value of your inheritance?

Sometimes, what worth you derive from inherited assets directly relates to when you receive them or sell them. Fair market values for different sorts of property often fluctuate, and you may worry about what the delay will mean for the value of your inheritance.

You will typically not be able to force the early distribution of assets. However, if you have reason to worry that the representative of the estate will mismanage resources or otherwise diminish your inheritance, you may be able to ask the probate courts to intervene. Understanding why you have to wait for control over inherited property can help you better handle the frustrations of the probate process.