What is the Probate Process Like in California?

If your loved one has recently passed away and did not draft a will or a trust, his or her estate may have to be handled by a probate court. This can be a complicated process, so if you are chosen as the estate administrator, there are a few things you need to know. Here are some of the questions you may have:

What is probate?

When a loved one does not leave behind a will, the probate court may get involved in wrapping up a decedent’s affairs. The probate court will focus on paying debts, gathering assets, and transferring the remaining property to the beneficiaries or heirs of the deceased person. If there was no will left behind, then the court must confirm a personal representative for the decedent, known as the estate administrator. Once confirmed, an estate administrator may collect assets, pay debts, represent the estate, and distribute assets to beneficiaries. You should know that this process usually takes anywhere from nine months to a year and a half–sometimes even longer.

How does the probate process work?

Before you are authorized to act as an administrator, a Petition must be filed with the Probate Court. If approved, the probate process will begin. Here are some of the things you should keep in mind throughout the probate process:

  • You must account for all assets in the estate, all money received, and all payments made during the probate process
  • You must notify potential creditors of the right to make a claim for monied alleged due 
  • You must notify all tax and governmental agencies of the death of the decedent
  • There are specific procedures that tell you how real or personal property must be sold. You must keep these in mind at all times. 
  • You may not distribute assets of the estate to the beneficiaries or heirs until you have court authority to do so. Once all the decedent’s affairs are resolved, you may file a petition with the court and request your authorization to distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries or heirs.

Once all probate matters are concluded, you may close the estate. You, as the personal representative, will file a Petition for Final Distribution. This is usually accompanied by an accounting of all monetary transactions. Once the judge issues an order for Final Distribution, you may distribute the assets and close the estate. From here, you may request your discharge from the court as a personal representative. 

Is there an alternative to probate?

There are certain cases that may present additional options. For example, if the decent’s probate estate does not include any real property and if the total value of all personal property subject to probate is less than $150,000, then there is generally a simplified process available. 

Contact our California firm

Working with an experienced estate planning attorney, such as Jaci Feldman of the Woodland Hills, California, Law Office of Yacoba Ann Feldman, will ensure that you are taken care of when you need it most. Contact The Law Offices of Yacoba Ann Feldman to schedule a consultation today.