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 and having to deal with complex California probate proceedings. The law governing California probate provides a process for this in California’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 California probate proceedings to determine whether the decedent’s Will is valid, and to make sure decedent’s creditors are paid. 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 designated person will make sure they pay the debts of the deceased before making distributions to the heirs and beneficiaries.

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 $166,250, then you would have to go through a probate proceeding in court. If the value is less than $166,250, you may qualify for a more straightforward 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 you can distribute in this way.

An estate can avoid Probate court 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. Avoiding probate is one of the advantages of creating a living trust; you can transfer ownership of assets into a trust, and name beneficiaries. In other words, this process avoids probate proceedings and allows the trust beneficiaries to receive 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, you must follow the following steps:

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. Also, whoever has possession of the original will must send a copy of the will to the person named in the will as an executor. If the person cannot be found or is unavailable, then you must send a copy of the will to all beneficiaries named in the will.

2.      File the proper forms to start a probate case.

Once the personal representative files the probate petition, the court clerk sets a hearing date for the case. The person filing the case must make sure they send notice of the probate filing to anyone with an interest or right to a part of the deceased’s property. They must also have notice published in a local newspaper of general circulation.

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 about 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 are paid, and property properly distributed to the heirs, then the case is over.

Completing a probate case is fairly complicated, and must people find it difficult to navigate without professional help. That is why A People’s Choice is a leading non-attorney probate service in California. We offer complete help to prepare and process all required forms to start a probate proceeding and complete the 8-10 months process. Contact the representatives at A People’s Choice, they can provide high quality non-attorney help.

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