Everything You Should Know About The Probate Process In California
May 25, 2021 08:31 PM EDT
If you are dealing with a recent loss and you have the duty to take care of your loved one's estate, then you probably have come across the term probate. Probate is the legal procedure to distribute a person's property after their death. The probate procedure is terribly slow, especially in California.
Probate proceedings demand a will validation, paying off debts, inventorying assets, and distributing the assets to any successors. For the legal proceedings, it's recommended to hire a service from a law firm, like, for example, https://www.huberfox.com/, that specializes in trust and estate law.
Depending on the size of the property, the proceedings of probating a property can sometimes be unexpectedly quick and easy to complete. However, it usually takes somewhere from nine months to more than a year, and the shutdowns because of the Covid-19 pandemic haven't expedited things either.
Probate it's a long procedure for a valid reason - it's complicated. Managing a probate property with many assets and successors can be a challenging task. There are several forms and legal steps required to begin the probate process in California.
The probate process is complex and confusing and it can be difficult to know where to start. That's why we put together this article to help you learn everything you need to know about probating a will in California.
Probate Without a Will
If someone dies without a will, their property and assets are distributed to their relatives on the basis of California's intestate succession law. It outlines who inherits what (from the relatives) and makes sure a surviving spouse receives their fair share.
If there is no surviving spouse or any children, the state law breaks down the order in which any living siblings, parents, grandchildren, or other loved ones inherit. In rare cases where the deceased doesn't have any surviving relatives, their assets are confiscated or returned to the state.
Interstate succession regulations differ from state to state. For example, if your loved one died in Temecula, you will need to acquire services from a Temecula probate attorney to guide you through the specific state probate proceedings. Anyway, you can also find out more about California's intestate succession laws online on the official state's web pages.
Probate With a Will
If the deceased died having a last will or testament, the court allocates their estate based on their wishes. Though, the court will first ensure that the will is legitimate before following its directions. It is also the step of the procedure where anyone who wants to dispute the will can step forward and resolve their matter officially with the court.
Even though a will exists, a surviving spouse is still eligible to a share of the deceased person's assets. The amount the spouse inherits differs by state. California is a joint property state, which means barring a separate agreement, half of the estate acquired during the marriage (that's joint property) belongs to the surviving spouse.
The Entire Probate Process Explained In Six Steps
The special representative of an estate is generally named in the will. But in cases where there is no will, the state probate court will appoint an executor among the deceased's surviving relatives. If you were chosen to be the executor, below are the steps you should follow to complete the probate process.
Step 1 - File A Petition
The initial step is to file a probate appeal in the region where the deceased has lived. You can make a demand in the appeal to be officially recognized as the legitimate administrator or executor of the deceased's property and assets.
In addition to the appeal, you have to file the will (if it exists) and the certificate of death. The regional court will then schedule a hearing to endorse the executor or hear complaints from other parties. If your application is accepted, the court will officially open the probate case, and you will be able to start the legal proceedings to close the estate.
Step 2 - Provide Notice
The executor has to provide official notice to all acceptors, beneficiaries, and successors that the estate is undergoing probate. Some territories demand an official notice to be published in a local newspaper. In California, a notice of one's death and the probate of their estate has to be issued three times in a newspaper prior to the court hearing to give any possible heirs the opportunity to come forward. Bear in mind that there has to be a minimum of five days between the first and last publishing dates.
Step 3 - Identify Assets
Further, you need to identify and assess all the assets and provide an evaluation of those. That includes real estate, cash, bank accounts, investments, vehicles, personal property, intellectual property, bonds, and even pets. It shouldn't contain assets owned by a trust, like, for instance, living trust or payment of life insurance. Assets like that don't go through probate.
Identifying all the assets may require some investigation and research. Be ready to go through emails, checkbooks, and bank accounts to collect the necessary information. Once the notice to acceptors is published, candidates are given a time frame to file their claims against the deceased individual.
Step 4 - Pay Debts And Bills
Once all the estate's debts are identified, they need to be paid. The executor is assigned to collect any funds owed to the estate, like outstanding rent and paychecks. They also need to review the outstanding debts and bills and decide whether and how they will be paid.
The executor will also need to pay all applicable taxes and ask for a final income tax return (on the estate). It's often a good idea to establish an estate bank account for paying the final bills and expenses. If there isn't sufficient money available to pay all the creditors, then you may sell the estate's assets to get the needed money. In case there still isn't enough money, the state will prioritize creditor claims over other distributions.
Step 5 - Parcel Out Assets
After all debts, claims, taxes, and costs are paid, everything that remains goes to the deceased's legal successors. The distribution can go in accordance with the will (if there is one) or follow state intestate regulations. Distributing estate assets can demand transferring ownership of bonds, vehicles, or immovable property via deeds or titles.
Step 6 - Close The Estate
Once everything is distributed, the final step is to execute a final account of the estate. You have to present all receipts and records that outline everything you have done to the court. Only then the estate can be closed finally. The court will afterward discharge you from your role as executor, and your job will be officially over.
Taking all the steps into consideration, it's not surprising at all that the entire probate process may take several months, a year, or even longer, depending on the extent of the probate estate. To close an estate successfully always demands attention to detail and a systematic approach. Therefore, go over this article again, if necessary, to get a detailed understanding of the probate process in California.