I have over six years of experience in bringing clients through California’s probate process. I have handled probate administrations in counties throughout California, including San Francisco, San Mateo, Orange, Solano, Nevada, and Fresno. I can effectively work directly or remotely in any county in California.

What Exactly Is Probate In California?

Probate is a legal process used to prove the validity of a deceased person’s will. When there is no will, the probate process helps determine the rightful and legal heirs of the deceased person, also known as the decedent.

What Are The Stages Of Probate?

Probate can be broken into three broad stages. The first stage of probate is the initiation. Probate is initiated when a person with a claim to the decedent’s estate files a Petition for Probate with the court. The petition seeks to validate the decedent’s will, if one exists, to appoint a personal representative to manage the probate and to provide notice to all known and potentially unknown beneficiaries, heirs, and other interested parties. The first stage is complete when the court issues an Order for Probate and grants Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration to the personal representative. The personal representative may also be known as an executor, executrix, or administrator.

The second stage of probate is the actual administration. This is when the bulk of the work gets done. During this stage, the personal representative has the authority to act on behalf of the decedent’s estate. They have an obligation to discover, appraise and protect all assets, to ensure all of decedent’s legitimate debts are paid and to sell, dispose and/or manage estate assets where appropriate. If the estate is subject to estate or income taxes the personal representative must file the appropriate return and pay all tax liabilities. This second stage lasts for at least four months to give creditors time to present any claims.

The third and final stage of probate is the closing and final distribution. Once the four-month creditor period has lapsed, and the administrator has performed all necessary actions they may petition the court 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 and requests to be discharged of any future liability.

How Do I Know If Probate Will Be Required?

It is best to speak with an experienced probate attorney to determine whether probate will be required. The attorney will review the assets of the estate including their date of death value, location in or outside of California, and how the decedent held title. Based on this review, the attorney will determine whether a formal probate administration is necessary.

How Long Does An Executor Have To Settle An Estate In California?

If a will exists, then an executor or personal representative has 30 days after the decedent’s death to lodge or file the will with the court. Once the will is lodged and the Order for Probate is granted, the personal representative has one year to settle the estate. However, in practice, the administration generally lasts longer than one year. When an Order for Probate is granted, the court will schedule a status hearing for 14-16 months from that date. Its purpose is to confirm the personal representative is effectively carrying out their duties, not causing any unnecessary delays and working towards closing the estate.

How Do I Start The Probate Administration Process?

To start a probate administration, you must file a Petition for Probate with the court. This court will be in the county where decedent lived. If the decedent was not a California resident then it will be in the county where decedent owned property. The petition seeks to validate the decedent’s will, if one exists, to appoint a personal representative to manage the probate and to provide notice to all known and potentially unknown beneficiaries, heirs, and other interested parties. The personal representative may also be known as an executor, executrix, or administrator. If the decedent has a valid will, then an executor will be nominated in the document. If there is no valid will or no able and willing executor then an interested party may request to be appointed administrator.

Besides filing the Petition for Probate, you must file several supporting documents, including but not limited to a notice of petition to administer the estate, proof you’ve published notice of the hearing in a local newspaper, and an acknowledgment of your duties and liabilities as personal representative. You may also include a waiver of bond, a waiver of notice, and, in some counties, a declaration of real property.

For more information on Probate Administration 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.