The probate process in California is meant to be straightforward to provide beneficiaries with the relief they need while making the overall process less stressful. With careful planning and proper execution, your heirs should be able to receive their inheritance with limited fanfare.  Unfortunately, there are exceptions to every rule, meaning that there is a chance that your estate may get stuck in probate. Understanding how probate works and learning proper estate planning methods can increase your chances of leaving behind an easy to settle estate.

Multiple Beneficiaries

Leaving behind more than a handful of heirs can lead to multiple probate issues, even if your heirs are in agreement regarding how to manage the estate. Each heir must be notified every time something is done with the estate and in many cases, progress may be slowed down by one heir failing to sign a necessary document. Even with the help of a qualified attorney and dedicated estate administrator, having several heirs can lead to your estate being stuck in probate for months or even years. Though technology has improved the overall probate process, the estate administrator may still find progress slowed to a halt waiting for overnighted documents to arrive or notarized approval from an heir to be provided.

Bad Representative

Naming a family member who is oldest or trusted to act as the estate representative is common.  Unfortunately, age and trustworthiness does not automatically guarantee that a person will be a good representative. A person who is unorganized, habitually loses things, and is poor at communication could lead to trouble. An inability to handle the responsibility of being an estate administrator increases the chances of avoidable delays occurring and makes the entire probate process take much longer than necessary.

Incomplete Wills

Creating a will is one of the first things people think of when the topic of estate planning comes up. However, a will is not always a fool-proof way to avoid the probate process. Making a will that does not list all properties, contradicts beneficiary designations that were made in insurance policies, and otherwise does not adequately address the inheritance leads to problems. Having a poorly executed will can at times be even more dangerous than having no will at all.

Family Feuds

Sadly, disputes within a family are one of the primary reasons estates end up stuck in probate for months. If certain family members do not like or trust each other, they will question each move the other side makes. Refusing to agree to certain decisions, not communicating with the administrator, and forcing all decisions to be made by the probate judge can make probate last for years.

Talk to a Probate Attorney

If you or someone close to you is worried about probate becoming a problem for your heirs, it is a good idea to talk to a probate attorney. A qualified lawyer can put your fears to rest while giving you the legal advice necessary to handle your estate. Contact the team at MMZ Law today to schedule an initial consultation so that we can begin discussing your legal needs.




341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.