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California Probate, Will & Trust Lawyer > Blog > Probate > What If You Don’t Probate A Will In California?

What If You Don’t Probate A Will In California?


If you have been named the executor of a decedent’s Will, you have a duty to open probate. But what if you don’t probate the Will? If you are the executor of a decedent’s estate who is thinking of not probating the decedent’s Will, you should know that not probating a Will can have serious consequences for you and the estate. If you fail to probate a Will as per the California Probate Code guidelines, you and/or the estate could face serious consequences.

What Happens if You Don’t Probate a Will in California?

Firstly, if you do not open probate, titled assets, such as vehicles and real estate, will remain in the decedent’s name indefinitely. And if the assets are in the decedent’s name, you cannot sell them to pay off debts, distribute them to beneficiaries, or keep registration current. This is because as long as the property is in the decedent’s name, you need the decedent’s signature and consent to do these things. You cannot get a decedent’s signature and approval.

Secondly, if you do not open probate, you might have to deal with stubborn creditors for a long time. Without filing probate, creditors can continue to pursue payment for up to one year.

Thirdly, if you do not open probate and the assets remain in the decedent’s name indefinitely, the estate is most likely going to continue accruing ongoing expenses, which you may be held liable for.

Fourthly, if you refuse to probate the Will, the beneficiaries can remove you from your role. For example, if beneficiaries determine that you are not probating the Will because you are hiding or mismanaging assets, making poor investments, or stealing funds, they can inform the court and petition that you be removed from your role.

Lastly, if you fail to probate a Will, you could face criminal penalties. If you withhold a decedent’s Will for your financial gain, you may face criminal penalties. You could even end up in jail. For instance, suppose your father’s Will expresses their desire to leave all their assets with a charity organization. In such a case, if you refuse to probate the Will, meaning the courts don’t know the Will exists, California’s intestate succession laws would put you in a position where you stand to inherit your father’s assets. Intentionally withholding your father’s Will because you want to benefit from the estate against their wishes is a criminal violation.

So, to answer the question, “What if you don’t probate a Will in California?” below is a summary;

  • You cannot legally transfer the decedent’s assets to beneficiaries
  • You cannot sell assets to pay off debts
  • You cannot keep property registration current
  • You may be held personally liable for ongoing expenses
  • Creditors can continue to pursue payment for debts for up to one year
  • You can be removed from your role
  • You could face criminal penalties

Contact The Probate Guy

If you have been named the executor of a loved one’s Will, it is best you allow a qualified probate attorney to guide you. For legal guidance, contact the experienced and dedicated California probate attorney, Robert L. Cohen – The Probate Guy – to schedule a telephonic consultation.


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I love being a probate attorney. I love helping people through a very difficult time in their lives with the probate process. My practice focuses solely on probate matters. My job is to complete the probate process as efficiently and painlessly for my clients as possible. I have found that paying the upfront costs of probate adds unneeded stress, so I will advance all of the fees and costs for the probate. No money is required to complete the probate. I will be reimbursed at the end of the case when you receive your inheritance. Call me NOW to discuss your case for free.

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