Probate is not always a particularly overwhelming process and it may be possible to stay out of probate court completely after a loved one passes away. However, for complicated estates or those that involve conflicts and other disputes, probate may be necessary and the support of a California probate lawyer can be instrumental in sorting out these issues and allowing loved ones to understand the next steps. Having to manage all of this on your own can be a lot to sort through, especially if more complex issues arise. Note that the rules related to probate in California around found in CA Prob Code § 100 et seq.
Probate in California Is Not Always Necessary
Probate is not always required depending on how many assets are inside the estate and how they were owned. If these assets were owned in joint tenancy with another person or placed inside a living trust or associated with payable on death beneficiaries or were placed in survivorship community property, then they may not pass through probate at all. Other assets, however, may need to go through the probate process. Streamlined summary probate is available to certain estates with lower values per California probate code 13100.
Probate Process in California
The basic probate process requires someone to come forward to start it. This is usually the executor who is named in a will by the person who passed away. If there is no will then typically a family member will step forward to ask to be appointed by the court as the administrator of the estate. These two job positions are one and the same. The existence of a will simply allows for a streamlined process because the person is already named.
The typical executor’s job will depend in terms of length because some cases can be closed up in a few months and others beyond one year. A California probate lawyer can assist you with the filing of a petition for probate in the county in which the deceased person lives. The executor must submit a filing fee of a few hundred dollars dependent on what is established by local county court. Once everything has been properly submitted to probate court in the California county, then letters testamentary or letters administration is given to an executor. This grants the appointed party formal ability to move and review estate assets.
Challenges of Probate in California
Following all of the local and state rules associated with the management of probate can be overwhelming. This is particularly true when the estate administrator did not realize that they were being appointed in this role or when they come to learn that the complexity of the estate is much bigger than they thought. This can be an overwhelming process because the executor has to take certain steps after receiving the authority to act. This includes gathering up the deceased person’s assets, creating an estate filing plan so that bills and benefits are not overlooked, requesting a taxpayer ID for the estate, and formally opening an estate bank account. The executor then needs to compile and then submit to the court an inventory of all of the assets inside the probated estate. Many cases in California, however, can be handled under the independent administration of estates act per California probate code 7261. This means that an administrator of an estate is eligible to take a lot of actions without having to get approval or supervision from the court. This can include paying taxes, approving or rejecting claims from creditors and selling real estate property. Other acts, however, like selling a piece of real estate might demand court approval.
Every state has rules about when creditors must come forward to lodge a formal claim against the estate. In California this is a period of four months. This means that when a creditor comes forward, the administrator of the estate is responsible for selling assets to pay these claims per California Probate Code 9050.