What Happens During the California Probate Process?

California Probate Process - Probate Attorney Palmdale CA

Probate is the court-supervised process of distributing your assets after you pass. It entails ensuring that your last will and testament is legally valid and binding, locating assets mentioned in your will, and distributing those assets to heirs. It also involves paying off your creditors and determining what outstanding taxes you owe on your property. If you’ve been named the executor of your loved one’s estate, you likely have many questions about what’s expected of you.

Starting the Probate Process Early

It’s generally a good idea to start processing your decedent’s last will and testament as soon as possible. Generally speaking, the California probate process takes at least several months to complete. And that’s if no one is contesting the will. It also depends heavily on the size of the estate, the number of outstanding debts, and tax issues that may arise from the distribution of assets.

Appointing an Executor of the Estate

If your descendant has a will, it will name you or someone else the executor or personal representative of the estate. In cases where there is no will, you can petition the court to serve as the estate’s personal representative.

In many cases, folks find themselves ill-equipped to deal with the legal requirements of managing their loved one’s estate. And even for those who are, it’s difficult to manage the duties of executor while grieving and attending to their own obligations. A probate attorney takes much of the stress and pressure of the probate process off of you. We ensure that deadlines are met, file all court documents on time, and move the process along in the most efficient possible manner.

Weighing Your Probate Options

Generally, you have different options based on the size of your descendant’s estate. Additionally, the process may differ based on the type of asset passing through probate. The transfer of real estate, for example, is subject to specific laws. Depending on the size of your descendant’s estate and the types of property being transferred, your estate planning attorney may be able to help expedite the probate process. This will reduce costs associated with the transferring of property and get property to heirs faster. Surviving spouses may be able to forgo the “full process” of probate and receive their assets faster.

Managing and Distributing Assets

As the personal representative of your descendant’s estate, you will take control of all of their property. This involves locating and taking possession of those assets. And it’s more difficult than it sounds. In some cases, descendants have assets that no one knows anything about — even their spouses. The executor must go through insurance policies, tax statements, and bank statements to hunt everything down. It’s a tedious and time-consuming process that’s best handled with the help of an estate planning attorney.

If real estate is among the assets being distributed, the executor is responsible for paying bills related to the property. This includes property taxes and other bills required to keep the property in good repair.

The executor is also responsible for determining the value of property based on appraisals or other documents.

Notifying Creditors

Before assets can be distributed, creditors must be notified regarding the passing of the descendant. Creditors often get first dibs on the descendant’s estate. Executors can reject claims filed by creditors on the victim’s estate depending on whether or not the debt is still valid. You will be required to announce the descendant’s death in an obituary. Any creditor who wants to file a claim on the estate has a limited window of time to do so.

Claims will have to be paid in full before any assets are distributed. In some cases, this means liquidating valuable property. Debts will include any unpaid medical expenses.

Filing Unpaid Tax Returns

The executor is responsible for filing the descendant’s final tax returns. In some cases, the estate itself may be liable for some tax returns. Unpaid taxes will then be paid from the estate’s funds.

Distributing the Estate

After all of the above conditions are satisfied, the executor then petitions the court for permission to distribute the estate’s assets to heirs. Before this can happen, the executor is responsible for submitting a complete accounting of the estate. This includes explaining money paid out on behalf of the estate.