The death of a friend or family member is stressful and exhausting. Obviously, the last thing you want to worry about is dealing with the deceased’s property with complex California probate proceedings. Ideally, probate should be an easy way to resolve the deceased’s estate and distribute their property to others. In reality, however, the process is rarely easy.
Starting – or Avoiding – the California Probate Process
In addition to settling estates, courts use California probate proceedings to determine whether the decedent’s will is valid and their creditors are paid. The court also appoints a person to distribute the property. This individual is responsible for paying the deceased’s debts before making distributions to their heirs and beneficiaries.
In California, before starting the probate process, you need to determine the value of the deceased’s estate. If the value is above $166,250, you will go through a probate proceeding in court. However, if the value is less than $166,250, you may qualify for a more straightforward process of distributing assets and paying debts without probate.
An estate can also avoid probate court when dealing with certain types of property including life insurance payments, or bank accounts or property with the deceased’s joint ownership. Additionally, creating a living trust helps you avoid probate by transferring ownership of assets into a trust and naming beneficiaries.
For married couples or domestic partners, the procedure depends on whether one party is claiming all the deceased’s property. If the partner is claiming all the property as community property under California law, they will have to go through probate in court. However, if they are only claiming a part of the estate, they may do so by filing a simplified proceeding, therefore avoiding probate.
Filing California Probate
Once you have determined you have to go through probate, you must do the following:
1. If the deceased left a will, you must file it with the court within 30 days of death. Also, whoever has possession of the original will must send a copy to the person named an executor. If this person cannot be found or is unavailable, then you must send a copy of the will to all beneficiaries.
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. Additionally, the representative must have notice published in a local newspaper of general circulation.
After a judge reviews the case, they appoint someone called an administrator or executor to distribute assets and pay debts. This person gathers information about the estate’s property and debts, and the court determines how it will be divided. Then, after the court reviews the distributions, they discharge the executor or administrator from their duties. Finally, the case ends once all debts are paid and property properly distributed.
Completing a probate case is fairly complicated, and most people have difficulty navigating it without professional help. That is why A People’s Choice is a leading non-attorney probate service in California. We offer help with preparing and processing all required forms to complete the probate process in eight to ten months. Contact the representatives at A People’s Choice for high quality non-attorney help today!