How long does probate take? It's a question we hear a lot. Unless the estate is very simple, it can take the executor considerable time to gather all the information required to submit the application for probate. See How to Probate a Will in Alberta for a description.
(Note: the term “personal representative” is the current legal term used to refer to an executor/executrix, administrator/administratix, and judicial trustee.)
For a very small and uncomplicated estate, it may only take a few months to complete the process. Otherwise, it can take up to year or longer.
Preparing to Apply for Probate
A lot of upfront work may have to be done before you can apply for probate. If the estate is complex, this will definitely take some time. But this work is critical so you can ensure you are giving the court everything it might possibly need to issue the Grant of Probate.
Processing the Grant of Probate
Once the application is submitted, the length of time the courts take to issue a Grant of Probate depends on the judicial district of the deceased. The application must be submitted to the court in the judicial district where the deceased resided at the time of death.
In Alberta, there are 11 judicial districts: Calgary, Drumheller/Hanna, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge/Macleod, Medicine Hat, Peace River, Red Deer, St. Paul, and Wetaskiwin. For a complete description of boundaries and maps, see the Judicial Districts Regulation.
Generally speaking, courts in judicial districts with larger cities—like Calgary or Edmonton—will take longer to issue a grant. The process can take anywhere from several weeks to several months, or even longer if the application is rejected once or several times because of incomplete or inaccurate information.
Probate Has Been Granted—Now What?
Once the grant is received, the executor completes the rest of the executor duties. It is difficult to predict how long that will take because, again, it depends on the complexity of the estate and the deceased's affairs.
Some of the issues that can affect the length of the probate process are:
- Complex assets in the estate. This could include property owned outside Alberta, business interests, or complex investment holdings.
- Beneficiary issues, such as residence outside Alberta, disputes among the beneficiaries, or beneficiaries not responding in a timely manner.
Before you can begin distributing the assets after probate is granted, you first have to settle all debts and pay taxes. This can take considerable time.
Distributing the assets of the estate may seem like a simple matter, but it can be quite challenging. There may be a number of beneficiaries, each with his or her own expectations and ideas about how the assets should be distributed. While you have to follow the instructions left in the will, you may also have to navigate through numerous difficult conversations throughout the distribution process. This also takes time.
Executors generally have up to a year to complete the process, but the Canada Revenue Agency can hold things up if there is a requirement to obtain a Clearance Certificate before distributing the assets of the estate. Obtaining this certificate can take several months to over a year.