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9 Essential Steps of the Probate Process in California


The probate process in California entails more than just distributing estate assets to beneficiaries or heirs. In this article, we discuss nine essential steps of the probate process in California. Read on!

Appointment of a Personal Representative

Before the probate process can begin, the court must appoint a personal representative. The personal representative is in charge of overseeing the probate process. If the decedent left behind a Will, the court will appoint the person named in the Will as executor to serve as the personal representative. If the person named in the Will as executor is unable or unwilling to serve and there is no alternative executor, or if there is no Will, the court will need to appoint someone else to serve as the personal representative. Regardless of who is appointed as the personal representative, that person must be unbiased in their representation of everybody with an interest in the estate.

Essential Steps of the Probate Process in California

The following are nine essential steps of the probate process in California;

Step #1: Filing a Petition for Probate

To initiate the probate process, someone must file a petition for probate. When filing a petition for probate, the original Will must also be filed, if there is one. The nominated executor in the decedent’s Will can file the probate petition. Interested parties are also allowed to file a petition for probate if there is no Will.

Step #2: Giving Notices

Under California law, when the executor or an interested party seeks to open a probate, all interested parties must receive notices of the probate hearing. These include everyone named in the Will in any manner and heirs-at-law. Additionally, California law requires that a copy of the notice of probate hearing be published in the legal section of a newspaper.

Step #3: Proving the Validity of the Will

This step is only necessary if the decedent left behind a Will and the Will is not a “self-proving” Will. Under California law, a self-proving Will is one that contains a signed witness statement that the testator had the intent and capacity to make a Will and there was no undue influence.

Step #4: Inventory and Appraisal

The personal representative is responsible for taking possession of the decedent’s estate assets, which are subject to the probate process, inventorying them, and appraising them.

Step #5: Paying Debts

It is up to the personal representative to ensure that debts and taxes are paid off. All valid debts must be paid before other distributions can be made.

Step #6: Paying Taxes

It is also the personal representative’s job to ensure all estate taxes are paid. If the personal representative makes distributions before paying taxes and there are inadequate funds to cover taxes, they may be held personally liable.

Step #7: Distributing Assets

After the payment of debts and taxes, the remaining assets can be distributed to beneficiaries or heirs. When there is no Will, assets are distributed to heirs as per California’s intestate succession laws.

Step #8: Final Accounting

After all the above steps, the personal representative must prepare a final accounting detailing every transaction that occurred during the probate process.

Step #9: Closing the Estate

After the personal representative provides an accounting, and the court approves it, the estate is closed. Then, the estate is closed.

Contact The Probate Guy

If you have questions or concerns or need help navigating the probate process, contact the skilled and dedicated California probate attorney, Robert L. Cohen – The Probate Guy – to schedule a telephonic consultation.

Southern California Probate Lawyer Serving Orange, Riverside, Anaheim, Whittier & Beyond.

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