California Probate Explained - Werner Law Firm

California Probate Explained

Unless an individual dies with a living trust or meets other specific criteria, their estate must go through probate after they pass away. The California probate process ensures that all of the estate’s debts are paid and that the assets are distributed to the proper beneficiaries and heirs. From start to finish, this process typically takes no fewer than 8 to 12 months, though it often takes longer. If there are disputes or complications, the process may take much longer.

Everything begins with the executor or personal representative. If a personal representative is named in the testator’s will, they take on all duties and responsibilities. If no one is named or the person named is unavailable, the court assigns someone.

Filing a Petition

After a loved one passes, someone must begin California probate proceedings and file a Petition for Probate with the California Superior Court. This form must have several pieces of key information, including the decedent’s name, their date of death, and information regarding their will, executor, and assets. 

Sending Out Notices

The executor of the estate must notify anyone who may be entitled to the estate that the estate will be going through California probate. This includes potential beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors. A notice must also be posted in the newspaper.

Asset Inventory and Valuation 

The personal representative puts in a substantial amount of work to inventory and appraise the decedent’s assets. This often involves locating any lost or undisclosed assets. Some assets require title transfers, including stocks and bonds, real estate, and bank accounts. Depending on the assets held by the decedent, the personal representative may have to get expert appraisals. Upon completion of this task, the asset inventory is filed with the appropriate court. 

Debt Payments and Taxes

Creditors have a set timeframe in which they can file a claim against the estate. The personal representative pays these debts from the estate, as well as all known debts. Additionally, the personal representative or executor is responsible to make sure any federal estate tax owed is paid on any amount above the exempted amount. 

Distributing Assets 

Once all debts have been settled by the estate, the executor can begin concluding estate proceedings. For approval from the court, the executor must provide documentation of all actions they have taken on behalf of the estate and summarize all payments made from the estate. Once the court approves, the personal representative can collect their fees and distribute the remaining assets to beneficiaries.

Probate is a lengthy process that can burden grieving loved ones. Through careful estate planning though, you can set up a living trust or other documents to protect your loved ones from going through probate. Learn more about your estate planning options by contacting Werner Law Firm.

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