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What Is The Probate Process In California?

When a family member dies in California, all of their assets must be transferred to other people. In many cases, a spouse will inherit the assets. In some cases, however, there is no spouse. In these situations, the property of the person who died – called the decedent – must be distributed as specified in the decedent’s will.

If the entire estate of the decedent is valued at less than $166,250 (in 2020), then it does not meet the value threshold to require California probate. Instead, assets can be distributed by the executor named in the will without court oversight.

Probate is the process where the court appoints a personal representative (if an executor is not named in the will) to take care of necessary tasks such as paying off final debts and expenses, putting a notice in the paper and distributing the assets. The process varies a little depending on whether there is a will and if there is an executor named or not. William H. Sauls, Attorney At Law, has helped San Diego families with California probate for over 30 years. Call today and get your questions answered.

What Does Not Go Through Probate?

Some assets are automatically transferred to a named beneficiary. If a person had an IRA, for example, it’s likely they would have named someone to receive that asset when they set up the IRA. Bank accounts and life insurance policies typically have a named beneficiary. Any real property that has a transfer on death deed (such as a house, trailer, cabin or other building) will not go through probate. The assets in living trusts also do not have to go through California probate. A lawyer can confirm this for you.

What Happens During Probate

Many people wish to avoid the probate process because there are costly fees and delays involved. The California probate process can take anywhere from about nine to 18 months. In some cases, it can take even longer.

The five basic probate steps are:

  1. Determine who the executor is. If there is no will or no one is named, then the court appoints someone. This court-appointed role is called the personal representative or administrator.
  2. The executor or administrator then must ensure all property in the estate is collected and kept secure. The executor must locate all beneficiaries. The executor must get copies of the death certificate, close all accounts and notify all agencies, such as the VA and Social Security, and pay final taxes due. There may be other duties depending on the estate’s particulars.
  3. The heirs – those who will inherit property or assets – must be determined. This is done by the will, if there is one, or by California inheritance laws.
  4. The property must be inventoried, and a value is given. A record of all assets and debts should be created.
  5. The executor should then distribute those assets in the most effective way.

As you can see, the probate process takes time, energy and commitment. An estate planning attorney can be an invaluable resource during this time to answer questions, offer guidance or even administer the estate.

Work With An California Probate Professional

If you want to ensure that all deadlines are met, all documents are filed and all debts are paid and collected, it may be in your best interest to work with an attorney. An attorney can also alleviate stress between family members who are grieving and shoulder the burden of administering an estate. Call attorney William Sauls to find out more about how he can help. Call 619-239-8096 or send the firm an email, and attorney Sauls will be in touch.