The process of closing a California probate is complex and may appear to be tedious. Fortunately, with the help of a Registered Legal Document Assistant service, such as A People’s Choice, you can close your loved one’s estate error free and reduce your personal liability. Read on to learn more about the steps required to file a California petition for final distribution and how to close a California probate.
When Can You File a California Petition for Final Distribution?
The earliest date the Personal Representative can file a California petition for final distribution of the decedent’s estate is four months after Letters are issued. If the probate process extends beyond this four-month date, and the personal representative is unable to file a petition for final distribution within one year after Letters were issued, the Personal Representative must file a verified report regarding the status of the estate. The report must explain the status of the estate, why it cannot be closed, and the time needed to close the estate. The status report will be set for hearing. The Personal Representative must provide interested parties with a Notice of Hearing (Form DE-120). At the hearing, the court will decide whether to let the estate stay open.
Steps to Close Probate Estate in California
In order to close a probate estate, the Personal Representative must file a final account, report and petition for final distribution, have the petition set for hearing, provide notice of the hearing to interested parties, and obtain a court order approving the final distribution. The petition for final distribution gives the court a detailed history of the probate case, explains why the estate is ready to be closed, and how the assets are to be distributed. Usually this final petition is a custom pleading that is prepared from scratch, and is required to address specific issues surrounding the probate estate. There are a few courts such as San Diego Superior Court, that require use of a complicated local form.
1. Allowance or Rejection of Creditor’s Claims in Probate
The Personal Representative will need to complete and file the Allowance or Rejection of Creditor’s Claim – Form DE 174 for each claim filed. Creditors will have 60 days to file a claim after the receipt of notice is mailed, or 4 months after notice of Letters. Once a creditor claim is filed, the Personal Representative will have 30 days to pay, allow, or reject and contest the claim. The payment of claims are based on the following priority:
- IRS or California Franchise Tax Board
- Administrative Expenses
- Secured Creditors
- Funeral Expenses
- Family Allowance
- Wage Claims
- General Debts
If the estate has no monetary assets to pay the claims, the estate’s real property must be sold to satisfy outstanding debts.
2. File Petition For Final Distribution
A court hearing will be set upon filing a petition for final distribution in a California probate. In most cases, the decedent’s real property or other assets are not to be distributed until a court order is granted. A court hearing will be set once the petition is filed. If the court grants the petition for final distribution, the personal representative will be required to file an order for final distribution (not a court form – formal pleading). Once the order is signed, the personal representative can distribute the remaining assets according to the order. Heirs and beneficiaries will be required to sign a Receipt of Distribution (custom formal pleading), and the signed receipts are filed with the court. Upon the estate being completely distributed pursuant to the order, the personal representative can file an Ex Parte for Final Discharge and Order, Form DE-295. Copies of the filed receipts should be included to provide proof of distribution.
The Personal Representative will be discharged of liability once the estate’s assets have beeen distributed according to the court order. The process of closing a California probate varies from court to court. For example, the custom pleadings mentioned above must be submitted to close a Ventura County probate.
Using a Legal Document Assistant Service to Close Probate Estate
Contact A People’s Choice to close your loved one’s California probate. We can help you draft the required forms and pleadings to properly close the estate at an affordable price. Contact us for more information.