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The Probate Process in California

Learn the Steps to Probateolder couple signing document

Probate may seem simple in the beginning, but when problems arise, it can quickly become a complicated procedure. The basic probate course will begin by proving a will to be valid. An executor, or person named in the will who is appointed to manage the estate of the deceased person, will then divide the deceased's assets.

When a person does not have a will or the court determines that a valid will does not exist, the court must appoint an administrator. The administrator is then responsible for dividing the deceased's assets. In order for one to start the probate process, they must file a petition, accompanied with other paperwork, with the court.

During the property distribution process, our legal team can aggressively litigate on your behalf. Contact us today!

How Does Probate Begin?

Probate cases in CA begin by filing a petition for probate at the California Superior Court within the county where the deceased had resided at the time of death. The petition provides information about the decedent, executor, heirs, and the estate. Once filed, this will inform the court to schedule a hearing generally 30 days out.

What Happens After Filing a Petition for the Probate Process

  • Handling of Notices: Once the date is declared, one must serve a notice of hearing for all who are named in the will, along with heirs who are legally related to the deceased. Notice of the probate must be published in a newspaper before the date of the hearing, as well. If the appropriate paperwork has been filled out, the court will grant the petition, sign the order to open probate and issue a testamentary letter for an estate with a will, or an administration letter for an intestate estate (an estate that does not have a will).
  • Asset Collection: Once this process is completed, all of the estate assets must be collected, inventoried, and appraised. Remaining money may be appraised by the executor or administrator, but everything else must be appraised by a court-appointed probate referee. During the process of administering the estate, the property must be sold or distributed, all estate bills must be paid off, and creditors of the deceased must be notified of the person's passing.
  • Payments to Creditors: When the creditors are paid and assets are sold or dispersed, the estate can be closed. When an estate is ready to be closed, a personal representative must file a petition, which includes an accounting for the estate's assets and a request to distribute assets to those previously decided upon. Estate accounting is problematic because it must comply with Probate Code Section 1060 et seq. The executor and estate attorney must also be paid, and are entitled to the same fee based on the estate's value.
  • Taxes on the Estate: The assigned representative that is responsible for the estate must also ensure that all taxes owed are paid off (federal and state).

How Long Does Probate Take?

Without any unusual problems or contests, probate may conclude in eight to twelve months. This accounts for a four-month claims period for creditors as well as the time it takes for a filed petition to be heard in court. A probate case with difficult issues or multiple contests could take more than a year to complete. Additional circumstances that could delay the progress include:

  • There is more than one beneficiary
  • A will does not exist
  • There are assets such as business investments and stock options that take time to evaluate

Retain Our Legal Services for Guidance

It is possible for a person to navigate through the probate system on their own, however, if it is done incorrectly, a case can take up to several years to resolve. The probate process is very meticulous; one must be aware of every rule, procedure, and legal term used during probate. At Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC we have over 50 years of cumulative experience in this area of law. We understand California's probate laws and procedures and can help clients resolve their cases with ease.

Contact our experienced attorney today to learn more about the CA process of probate.

Why Work With Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC?

  • With 50 years of combined experience, we've handled cases of all types and can confidently help you.

  • We strive for excellence. Our knowledgeable and courteous staff work hard so that you don't have to.

  • We handle each case on a one-on-one basis and explore all possible options with you.

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