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Is There a Deadline for Starting a Probate?
In Nevada there is no time limit or statute of limitations to do a probate. Let's consider some examples in which a probate might be done many years after a person dies. Suppose Husband owns a house in his own name. He dies. His wife continues to live in the house and pays the mortgage and the taxes and the HOA fees, if any, and keeps up the property so that no governmental agency issues citations. No one interferes with her occupation of the house. Then the wife dies 20 years later. Now there will have to be a probate involving the long dead husband, along with a probate involving the wife's property.
Please Note: In the above example it would appear that the wife "got away with" not doing a probate on her husband's estate for 20 years. However, if she had insurance on the house and had to make a claim for damages, she might have had her claimed denied since the policy would be in the name of the husband and he's obviously not around to make the claim.
Another reason for doing a probate years after a person has died is that an asset might not be discovered until years after the death. For example, a man had a savings account, dies and the account just sits in the bank with none of the heirs knowing about it.
However, there are usually practical reasons to do a probate fairly promptly. Heirs may want to get to financial assets that have to go through probate. In the above example of the wife living in the husband's house after his death, suppose there is an accidental fire that destroys the house. Even if the wife has paid the annual insurance premiums addressed to her dead husband, the insurance company may balk at paying the claim since the dead husband, not the wife is the "insured."
Or, suppose the decedent left only a parcel of real estate that isn't worth much and none of the heirs shows any interest in the real estate. Taxes will become due and if no one pays the taxes, the real estate will eventually be sold for the taxes due.
Another issue arises if the person most entitled to begin the probate process (the person named as the executor Probate Words and Terms in the will, or the closest relative entitled to do the probate if there is no will or living named executor who will serve) never gets around to beginning the probate. In that case another heir could petition the court to act as the personal representative Probate Words and Terms.
Are there Deadlines Once a Probate Petition is Filed and a Personal Representative Appointed?
1) There are Deadlines to file Claims against the Estate:
The personal representative (executor or administrator) of the estate in Nevada Summary and General Probate Administrations is required to mail notices to all people known to have a potential claim against the estate if the personal representative wants to take advantage of deadlines. In the case of Summary Administration, currently for estates not worth more than $300,000, a Notice to Creditors must be published in a local newspaper and Creditors will have 60 days from the date of either first mailed notice or first pubilication date to file a creditor's claim with the court against the estate. Failure to meet this deadline means their claim is lost. (If the personal representative intend to pay a creditor's claim, mailed notice is not necessary.)
2) There are Various Deadlines to Undertake Certain steps in the Probate Process:
Currently, the Clark County Probate Court in Las Vegas lacks the software and employee resources to track probate cases and currently does not demand that the probate proceeds in a timely fashion. This Court intends in the future to have such software. But at the present time it is up to the interested parties to move the case along. In Washoe County Probate Court in Reno the Court will demand to know from the estate's attorney why the case is not moving along if the case sits for a while.
3) Letters of Administration and Letters Testamentary do Expire:
To withdraw a Decedent's money from a financial institution, the financial institution usually demands Certified copies of the Death Certificate, the Order Appointing the Executor or Administrator and the Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration. Many financial institutions will not honor certified copies of the Order and Letters which have been certified by the Probate Court more than 6 months earlier. So, if the Administrator or Executor waits too long to collect financial accounts, new certified copies of the Letters and Order will have to be obtained; in Clark County this process can easily take a couple of weeks as the Court will not instantaneously issue the documents.
4) Federal Tax Deadlines:
After a person dies, it may be necessary to file a Decedent's tax return for the year the person died and to file any prior year tax returns. If the estate earns more than $600 in any given calendar year, it may be necessary to file an estate income tax return. Failure to comply with federal tax deadlines could result in penalties and interest charges.
5) Insurance Deadlines:
Suppose a person who is living in their own home dies and after the person dies the heirs leave the house empty. There is probably fire and casualty insurance on the house. From the insurance company's viewpoint, an empty house is a bigger risk than an occupied house. Or suppose, that after the person dies the heirs, before the probate process is complete, rent the house to tenants. Again, from the insurance company's viewpoint, an owner occupied house may be less of a risk than a tenant occupied house. Now if a person dies and two days later the house burns down, the insurance company is not going to get away with denying coverage. But if the house sits empty for a year and then burns down the insurance company may get out of paying the claim. Therefore, the heirs should immediately notify the insurance company of any change of status with respect to the house. While this could result in an increase in insurance rates, or even cancellation and the need to obtain different insurance, it is worthwhile to do this.