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How Long Does the Probate Process Take in Rhode Island?

probate process

If you are wondering how long the probate process is in Rhode Island, there is no definite answer. The timeline depends on many factors because individual cases vary. Some people leave a will, and others do not. At times, the individuals left behind can also contest the will.

Since different requirements and procedures may apply depending on the situation, there is no concrete one-size-fits-all answer. Notably, Rhode Island belongs to the list of states that allow people to avoid probate. Exemptions include small estate provisions that can skip the court process.

If you want to sell property left to you as inheritance, it is understandable why you want to know the time frame. This move will allow you to liquidate a home or commercial building if you wish. Learn more about the basics of the probate court process here and how long it usually takes.

How Long Does Probate Take in RI?

Each town has its own probate court in Rhode Island with assigned judges. The town’s council members usually appoint them. The only exception is New Shoreham because the town council here acts as the probate judge.

You can expect probate here to take at least six months for the simplest cases. Notably, you cannot file state and federal tax returns (if mandated) later than nine months after the estate owner’s death. However, this process can take longer to finish for complex cases with contests or those with large estates.

Why Is the Probate Process Required?

Probate is a court-supervised administration of a person’s estate, which begins upon death. An individual can pass away testate or intestate. What does this mean? Let’s clarify further below:

  • Testate: When a person passes away in this condition, they will transfer all the estate or property to the assigned beneficiaries named in the last will and testament.
  • Intestate: A person who dies intestate does not have a valid will, so they disburse the property according to the state’s intestate succession laws.

In either scenario, the probate court takes charge of supervision, distribution, and administration of the deceased’s estate. The court will also facilitate if there are any legal disputes regarding the distribution of assets. Moreover, the judges can also decide on the validity of the will.

Usually, in the will, a specific person is identified as the executor of the estate. This point person shall be in charge of managing the deceased’s estate. However, if the latter fails to name an executor or passes on intestate, the probate court shall appoint a representative. This person is now assigned to fulfill all the executor’s duties.

The Probate Process Timeline and Influencing Factors

The probate process begins when the executor presents that will to the probate court. Usually, the probate court where the deceased lived, or owned property is the one involved with the case.

To start the process, the court collects all the decedent’s property. Then, the estate will pay the following: debts, taxes (if outstanding), and claims.

Once everything is settled and the papers approved, they distribute the remaining property to the heirs after paying the obligations. However, the length of this process will depend on several factors such as:

  • Size of estate
  • Number of outstanding taxes
  • Arrears to pay
  • Number of heirs
  • Tax issues
  • Contested issues of the will

As noted above, it will take at least six months to settle the simplest probate process. Typically, cases can take two years until everything is resolved. However, when there are contested issues and lawsuits, the process can take even longer. There have been cases where it takes decades to solve the problems and finish the probate process.

Check out the typical timeline of the probate process:

The Probate Process Time frame
Prepare and file the petition for probate  by:

  • Showing evidence that states the validity of the will
  • Selecting an estate executor, admin, or rep
  • Identifying the heirs and extended family
1 to 4 months
  1. The court hearing regarding the petition for probate
  2. Issue the applicable documents:
  • Letter of testamentary
  • Letter of administration
  • Order of probate, liabilities, and duties

3. Pay probate bond if ordered by the court

3 to 4 months
Notify creditors 3 to 6 months
  1. Notice to the health department if the deceased received government medical benefits
  2. Inventory and appraisal of estate
  3. Pay bills and taxes, including state and federal, family allowances, and estate admin costs
  4. Deny or accept any credit claims
  5. Notify franchise tax board if heirs are out-of-state residents
6 to 12 months
  1. Tax clearance letters
  2. File petition for final accounting and distribution of the estate
7 to 15 months
  1. Hearing in probate courts begin
  2. Releasing Order for final accounting and distribution
8 to 16 months
  1. Distribution of assets to heirs
  2. Final discharge orders
9 to 18 months
Final distribution of estate concluding probate 9 to 24 months
  • Noteworthy: This sample timeline may not apply to all cases. Again, those with no issues in their estates can take as little as six months. However, those with larger estates and contested wills can last so much longer, especially with motions, appeals, and injunctions.

How Much Will This Whole Process Cost?

Transferring the ownership of assets and distributing property after the estate owner dies can be quite complex. Probate is crucial to ensure fair distribution through court supervision. Because of the process involved, certain fees and costs apply. You may end up paying the following:

  • Lawyer’s fees
  • Executor fees
  • Personal representative compensation
  • Court costs
  • Filing fees
  • Probate, Admin, or Executor Bonds as required by the RI probate court
  • Miscellaneous fees

Although that may seem like a lot, you have nothing to worry about because they deduct the costs from the estate itself. However, as a result, the heirs get a lesser portion of the estate. Besides, the cost will vary based on a number of factors such as:

  • Size of the estate
  • Complexities of issues surrounding the estate
  • If heirs contest the will
  • What type of estate plan was created (if applicable)?
  • Other factors like the health of witnesses (if any) or injunctions

Is it Possible to Avoid Probate?

Because probate is costly and time-consuming, people want to avoid it as much as possible. If you want to protect your assets and heirs from costly legal procedures, take note of the following strategies people can use to avoid  probate in Rhode Island:

Draft a Revocable Living Trust

A competent adult can create a revocable living trust and a legal strategy to leave your belongings to individuals or organizations upon your death. This document transfers your assets and properties into a new entity known as a trust. Revocable means you can change it at any time as you deem fit. It is common for circumstances to change, so this gives you the freedom to do what you want with your property. A living trust is a popular estate planning tool that you can draft with the guidance of an estate lawyer to ascertain that all your wishes will be carried out in your death.

Make Amendments with Property Titles

If you are keen on a specific property going to a particular person or organization, you can do any of the following:

  • Joint Tenancy
  • Tenancy by the Entirety
  • Community Property with Right of Survivorship

Again, amending titles is one way you can make sure that specific lots, homes or commercial properties will go to the rightful heir. Fixing this ahead will provide some peace of mind in case the properties are coveted or contested by anyone.

Create a Transfer or Payable on Death

To execute your desires correctly, you must create beneficiaries on accounts and policies (for example, bank accounts, stock certificates, etc.). You can create a TOD (Transfer on Death) or POD (Payable on Death). This means whatever assets are assigned will be disbursed accordingly.

Consider Life Insurance

In general, life insurance death benefits are paid directly to the stated beneficiary or beneficiaries without going through probate court. This is because life insurance payments are not considered as part of the estate. It is not subject to taxation as inheritance, payment of the deceased’s bills, or debt collection. However, concerning income tax, this applies to lump sum or one-time payment only. If the beneficiaries receive the insurance payouts in installments throughout a time frame, the recipients may have to pay interest on the outstanding death benefit.

Find a Way to Resolve Your Probate Issues in Rhode Island

Probate lawyers in Rhode Island are not made equal. Some are more experienced than others. Attorneys also charge differently, with some billing hourly and others charging a flat fee for representation.

If you have any questions about inherited properties in Rhode Island, do not hesitate to give our team a call. We have a lot of industry partners here at RI Home Store, so we are confident to refer a reputable probate lawyer to handle your case. We also have connections with estate lawyers so you can plan your living will ahead and avoid probate.

Once everything is finally settled, we can help heirs sell real estate properties. Our real estate consultants are ready to assist with property valuation. We can also come up with specific strategies to ensure a quick sale.

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