The death of a friend or family member can be an emotional time. The last thing you may want to consider is how to deal with the deceased person’s property. The law pertaining to California probate proceedings provides a process for this in the state’s probate code. Ideally, this process is supposed to be an easy way to resolve the deceased’s estate and distribute his property to others in an orderly manner. In reality, the process is rarely easy.
In addition, courts use probate proceedings to decide the validity of the deceased’s will, and which debts were owed at the time of death. The court also appoints a person to distribute any property according to a will, or if there is no will, according to the law. This appointed person also pays the debts of the deceased before making these distributions.
California Probate Proceedings and Non-Probate Options
In California, before you can figure out if you need to go through probate court for personal property, you need to know the value of the deceased’s estate. If the value is above $150,000, then you would have to go through a probate proceeding in court. If the value is less than $150,000, you may qualify for an easier process of distributing the assets and paying the debts that allows you to avoid probate. Personal property does not include houses or land. There are other restrictions about what kind of property can be distributed in this way.
Probate court can also be avoided when dealing with other types of property such as with life insurance payments, or with bank accounts or property that is owned jointly with the deceased. This is one of the advantages of creating a living trust; you can transfer property into a trust, and name beneficiaries who then avoid probate proceedings in receiving the trust property upon your death.
With married couples or couples in a domestic partnership, there is a different procedure depending on whether you are claiming all the deceased spouse’s property, or just a part of it. If claiming all the property as community property under California law, then you have to go through probate in court. If you are only claiming a part of the estate, then you may do so by filing a simplified proceeding, therefore avoiding probate.
The Filing Procedure for California Probate Proceedings
Once you have determined you have to go through probate, the following steps have to be followed:
1. If the deceased left a will, the person who the will was left with has to file it with the court within thirty (30) days of death. A copy of the will is also sent to a person named in the will as an executor. If the person cannot be found or is unavailable, then the copy is sent to a named beneficiary in the will.
2. File the proper forms to start a probate case.
Once the probate case is started by filing, the court clerk sets a date for the case to be heard. The person who filed the case must then make sure that notice is sent to anyone with an interest or right to a part of the deceased’s property. The person filing the case must also have notice published in a newspaper that is generally circulated.
After a judge reviews the case, he appoints someone to take care of distributing the assets and paying the debts, this person is called an administrator or an executor. The executor or administrator gathers information on the estate’s property and debts, and the court determines how it will be divided. After the court reviews the distributions, they discharge the executor or administrator from their duties. If all debts have been paid and all property remaining has been properly distributed, then the case is over.
Starting a probate case, if you need to, may be fairly complicated in the beginning, and you may need help getting started. For help in completing the required forms to start a probate proceeding, contact the representatives at A People’s Choice, they can provide high quality non-attorney help.