Full probate in California can take six months or more, and it’s often an extremely cumbersome process. Plus, you can’t always control an estate’s complicated circumstances. For instance, it’s nearly impossible to plan for a beneficiary contesting a will! However, there are some actions we can take to simplify the process as much as possible. For example, estate representatives typically have complete control over the probate application process. Thus, they can often determine the simplest way to initiate administration of the estate. Believe it or not, the way you approach a probate application can actually set the tone for the entire process.
Things to Consider Before Starting Your Application
Before you start filling out your application, or “petition“, for probate, there are a couple steps you need to take. These steps are necessary to collect all relevant information for your petition. In fact, failing to complete some of these responsibilities could result in an unnecessarily long probate!
First, if the decedent died without a will, the court or a successor must choose an estate representative. If the estate requires full probate, the court will appoint an executor according to Probate Code Section 8461. Otherwise, if the estate is eligible for a small estate procedure, any successor may represent it – but more on that later!
Estate Executors’ Responsibilities Before Applying for Probate
If you have been appointed executor of an estate, there are a few pre-probate tasks you must complete. For example, below is a partial list of these responsibilities:
- Find the will, if it exists
- Collect all property including bank account funds and benefits
- Get certified copies of the death certificate
- Determine heirs and beneficiaries according to the will or California intestate succession laws
- Cancel credit cards and subscriptions
- Notify the Social Security Administration if necessary
- Prepare final income tax returns
Perhaps the most time-consuming task prior to applying for probate is the inventory process. More specifically, executors must identify, inventory, and collect (if possible) all assets in the estate. This includes real and personal property, including both tangible and intangible assets. Keep in mind that this step is incredibly important in determining which probate process the estate requires.
Choosing the Appropriate Probate Process
Luckily, not all estates require full administration through probate. Instead, small estates and spousal transfers are both eligible for simplified probate procedures. More specifically, an estate worth $166,250 or less is eligible for a small estate probate. Further, the surviving spouse or registered domestic partner of a decedent may file a spousal property petition. This petition simplifies the transfer of a decedent’s property to their spouse, avoiding probate.
These procedures are less expensive and time consuming than full probate, and they require several less steps. In fact, a simplified probate may not even require a court hearing! Therefore, before you start your probate application, it’s incredibly important to determine whether or not the estate requires a full probate.
Starting Your Application for Probate
Once you’ve determined whether you’re petitioning for a full or simplified probate, it’s time to complete the appropriate petition and file it with the county clerk. However, be sure to inquire at your local county court about any special forms or procedures they require. Finally, before you start your petition, you should determine whether you will hire an attorney. Believe it or not, even full probate procedures can be completed without an attorney’s help. In fact, a DIY probate can save you thousands of dollars.
That said, administering an estate without a lawyer does not mean you’re doing it all on your own! Instead, work with a registered legal document assistant such as A People’s Choice. A People’s Choice has over 40 years’ experience assisting clients with their probate applications in California. Plus, we can even assist you throughout the entire probate process! While we cannot offer legal advice, A People’s Choice is here to help you complete and file your probate forms from start to finish.
Working with A People’s Choice is a great way to ensure you are accurately completing your probate petition and other paperwork. Plus, we are even familiar with local county courts’ unique forms and requirements! Call us today at 1-800-747-2780 or click here to read more about filling out a Form DE-111 Petition for Probate.
Was this article helpful? We would love to know your thoughts! If you found this article helpful, please check the LIKE button below. Your feedback helps us plan topics for future articles.