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How the California Probate Process Works

 Posted on February 18, 2024 in Estate Planning

Blog ImageMany steps require completion before an estate executor can pass down any assets to the beneficiaries named in a deceased person’s will. Each step must be completed exactly as the court specifies, which includes the filing of many forms, and an executor must follow each step of the California probate process in order. Because executors are often family members who do not have a specialized understanding of the law, following the probate process can be complicated and confusing. For help concerning every aspect of the probate process,consult an estate planning attorney for questions or advice.

The Petition

A petition for probate must be filed in the California county in which the deceased person lived when they died. The court will then give notice of a necessary hearing that will take place in approximately 30 to 40 days. The petitioner will also need to file a copy of the deceased individual’s will (if they had one) and a copy of the death certificate (in some circumstances), and pay the filing fee.

Publishing of Hearing Notice

Once you have a hearing date, you must publicly publish the event in a local newspaper at least three times. Everyone named in the will (if one was made), legal heirs, and potential creditors must receive a copy of the hearing notice via mail.

Probate Hearing

The executor, more commonly referred to as the “administrator” in California, will be named at the first probate hearing. If there was a will that named an administrator, then the named person will likely be appointed by the probate court. However, the petitioner can suggest an administrator when filing, regardless of whether one has already been named in the will or not.

Should the administrator in the will refuse to serve or if the deceased died intestate (without a will), then the local county court will appoint an administrator for the probate court proceedings. This will often be the closest living relative or one of the beneficiaries of the estate.

Bond Posting

The probate court may require the administrator to post a surety bond before the probate court gives them official control of the deceased person’s estate. If the administrator lives out of state, then a bond is necessary. This will grant the administrator the authority required to handle the estate of the deceased. This is to ensure the administrator executes their responsibilities to completion.

Proving a Will

A will, if created, will require proof that the deceased authorized it. This will often require no more than the witnesses who were present at the time of the signing to come forth and acknowledge the will’s authenticity.

Asset Collection and Creditors

The administrator will need to collect all of the deceased individual’s probate-eligible assets. Some of the physical assets, such as cars, homes, and businesses will likely require a title transfer. All title transfers will need to be available for public review. The administrator will have to file a form with the court declaring they have gathered all items as part of the deceased individual’s estate.

Following asset collection, the administrator must file a Notice of Administration to Creditors form. This will notify the creditors of the deceased individual’s passing so creditors can make claims against the estate.

Probate Hearing #2

Once all of the preceding steps have taken place, the judge will make a final decision on estate distribution. The administrator will then need to ensure that the deceased individual’s estate taxes and fees are paid and that the personal income tax return is filed, and close out the estate by providing a complete and final report for all assets that have been distributed. The judge may require receipts showing how all assets were distributed to ensure the process was done correctly.

Contact a Los Angeles County, CA Estate Planning Attorney

The finalization of the lengthy probate process could take upwards of two years depending on the complexity of the estate. It is a good idea to have an experienced Los Angeles, CA probate lawyer assisting you every step of the way. Contact the Law Office of David Schechet for a free consultation to discuss your situation using the number 800-282-4731.

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