An Introduction to California Probate

If a loved one has passed recently or you’ve been involved in their estate planning, you’ve likely heard about the probate process. Probate is how the court validates the Will and ensures that the right people get the decedent’s assets. It also ensures that all necessary debts are paid before assets are distributed. If you’ve been named executor, knowing what to expect from the California probate process can help you prepare.

Filing the Proper Documents

The first step in the California probate process is filing the necessary documents with the county court. The paperwork must be filed in the county where the testator lived up until their death. The individual will file the will and the petition for probate. This requires that a personal representative or executor be assigned to the estate.

Notices and Letters

The person named executor or personal representative now takes over their estate management responsibilities. It starts with filing notices and sending out official letters. The executor must file a probate notice in the newspaper. This alerts potential creditors and beneficiaries to the probate process and allows them to make claims to the estate. The executor must also send official letters to all possible heirs and beneficiaries.

Inventory

Perhaps one of the most time-consuming aspects of the probate process is creating an inventory of the testator’s assets. The inventory must list everything included in the testator’s estate and include appraisals for each asset. This often involves locating assets and finding out if there are any secured debts tied to the assets. Certain assets are not part of probate, including assets with joint tenancy, those with beneficiary designations, and transfer-on-death accounts.

Estate Management

Throughout this process, the executor or personal representative is required to manage the estate. They must pay all secured debts to prevent assets from being repossessed or sold before the probate process is finished. In addition, they must protect assets from theft or destruction. This is particularly important in estates with homes or other real estate.

Asset Distribution

After the executor has finished paying off all taxes associated with the estate and all validated debts, they can request that the court close the probate case. The court will review the petition and the documentation provided by the personal representative. From there, they’ll order that the estate’s assets be distributed to the appropriate beneficiaries. The executor distributes assets and relinquishes their duties as personal representative. From start to finish, this process typically takes between six and 12 months.

Have you been named executor, or are you ready to begin your estate planning? The team at MMZ Law is ready to help. Call us now to schedule your free consultation.

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