If a decedent owned “probate assets” with a total date of death value of $162,250 or more, then those assets must pass through probate administration. A “probate asset” is any asset not held in a trust, a joint tenancy or as community property, and does not have a beneficiary named on the account.

Is The Probate Administration Process Different For Intestate?

A decedent is considered to have died “intestate” when the decedent had no will. If a probate administration is required for an intestate estate, the three stages of administration and the key steps within each stage are largely the same as those required if a decedent died with a will. A key difference is when there is a will, the decedent’s estate is distributed to their chosen beneficiaries and managed by their chosen executor. In comparison when a person dies intestate the beneficiaries or heirs are determined by intestate succession laws established under the probate code and the personal representative is chosen by the estate’s interested parties and the court. The heirs and personal representative of an intestate estate may or may not be the same persons the decedent would have chosen if they had established an estate plan.

What Are The Common Responsibilities Of An Executor Or An Administrator Of An Estate?

Common responsibilities of an executor or administrator of an estate include (1) locating, protecting and appraising all assets; (2) conservatively investing and managing all assets during the administration; (3) keeping all assets in a separate estate account; (4) maintaining accurate records of all actions taken; (5) notifying all known creditors of the ongoing administration; and (6) communicating with beneficiaries or heirs throughout the administration.

What Is A Probate Code 850 Petition?

An 850 Petition, commonly known as a Heggstad petition for its reference to a court case of the same name, is used to convey or transfer property which may have belonged to the decedent. 850 Petitions are generally used when a decedent failed to properly transfer title of assets to their revocable trust. If assets, such as real property and bank or investment accounts are held in the decedent’s name at the time of their death when they should have been held in decedent’s trust then these assets must pass through a formal probate administration unless the trustee can file an 850 Petition. The 850 Petition requests the court to order all assets held in decedent’s name be transferred to the trustee and thus avoid a formal, lengthy, and costly probate administration. The court will generally grant the request if the petitioner can demonstrate the decedent’s clear intent to transfer those assets to their trust and explain why they were not transferred.

Is Probate Always Going To Be Necessary In California?

Probate is not always necessary in California. The value of an asset on decedent’s date of death, ownership of the asset and its location will determine whether a probate is necessary. If the value of all “probate assets” is less than $162,250 then these assets may be transferred via a Small Estate Affidavit and without a formal probate. If an asset is held in trust (or could have been held in trust), in a joint tenancy, or as community property, or has a named beneficiary on a beneficiary designation form then these assets transfer outside of probate. Lastly, if the asset is tangibly outside of California such as a vacation home, or intangibly outside of California, such as a business incorporated in another state then these assets may transfer outside of California’s probate administration and according to another state’s laws.

How Long Does The Probate Process Take In California?

The probate process in California generally takes at least 12 months. California requires a mandatory four-month creditor period after Letters are issued. This period plays a role in the length of the administration. But, the bigger issue is the understaffed and busy courts in California. The initiation and close of the estate both require a hearing, and unfortunately hearings are often scheduled for 2-3 months out. This results in a longer probate process.

What Happens At The End Of A Probate Case?

The end of the probate administration is the third and final stage of the probate. At this time, the personal representative submits a petition for final distribution. The administrator will provide either an informal report or a formal accounting of all actions they took during the administration and all monies that entered and exited the estate. Further, the petition requests the court approve a final distribution of all assets to the beneficiaries, heirs, or creditors. Until this order is granted, the personal representative may not transfer assets to the beneficiaries. After the personal representative distributes all assets according to the order the representative petitions the court to be discharged of all future liabilities. And with that the estate comes to a close.

For more information on Probate Assets In The State Of California, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you need by calling (415) 484-0078 today.