Anyone who has experienced a death in the family has probably heard the mysterious term “family probate court” get thrown around. But what exactly does it mean?
When a loved one passes away, they leave behind a lifetime of finances. Their final bills and debts must be settled, bank accounts closed, and property distributed. This bureaucratic task, which can take more than a year to complete, is called probate.
In simple terms, California family probate court is the legal process of settling a person’s estate after their death. If you’re named as the executor of the will or if you’re the next of kin of the deceased, the job of handling their personal and legal details may fall to you.
With so many myths surrounding the probate process, it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s why we decided to compile information on how the process works, how long it takes, and how much it costs to go through California family probate court.
How Does California Family Probate Court Work?
The purpose of probate is twofold. First, it ensures any debts, taxes, or bills owed at death are settled. Second, it ensures the rightful heirs of the deceased receive their inheritance.
Probate proceedings in California are supervised by the Superior Court in the county where the deceased lived. The court will validate the will and appoint someone to handle their estate. If there is no will, then the court appoints an administrator using California Probate Code §8461. A surviving spouse or legal domestic partner is usually at the top of the list of potential administrators.
How Long Does California Family Probate Court Take?
Everyone who goes through California family probate court for the first time wonders how long it takes. The answer is, most basic probate cases close in 10 to 12 months. Since probate is a court-administered process, several documents and forms need to be filed with the court and many actions require court supervision. As a result, the process can sometimes take years to finish, especially for large estates.
The executor of the estate has to wait until the funeral to start the probate process. After that, the executor is tasked with tallying all of the deceased person’s assets, securing those assets, contacting creditors, and paying off pending taxes. Only then can they start the process of distributing the estate to eligible heirs.
What Does a California Family Probate Court Executor Do?
California family probate court is a pretty tedious process that requires combing through paperwork, tax returns, and bank statements to locate all assets. Even if this part of probate goes well, one of the beneficiaries could slow down the distribution of assets if they contest the will.
Sometimes there might not even be a will, and someone qualified will have to petition the court to be named executor of the estate. The assets will then be distributed using intestate succession laws, which often takes much longer than if there was a legal will.
If you’re confused about where to start with California family probate court, check out our checklist for filing probate in California. We’ve laid out all the steps an executor has to take to complete full probate.
How Much Does California Family Probate Court Cost?
California family probate court comes with a lot of unnecessary expenses. Since it is a court-administered process, an attorney typically needs to be involved, and attorney fees in California are no joke. The executor appointed by the court to direct the procedure is also entitled to fees payable from the deceased person’s assets.
For example, let’s assume an estate is valued at $400,000 (without consideration of any outstanding debt), the required fee for the attorney and executor would be $11,000 each. California charges a “statutory fee” fee for probate work that is a percentage of the value of the estate. Here’s a breakdown of the percentage as defined by California Probate Code § 10810:
- 4% on first $100,000
- 3% on next $100,000
- 2% on next $800,000
- 1% on next $9 million
- 0.5% on next $15 million
Continuing with our $400,000 example, an attorney would receive 4% of the first $100,000 ($4,000), 3% of the next $100,000 ($3,000), and 2% of the next $800,000 ($4,000) for a grand total of $11,000. The executor fees can be waived if the heirs of the deceased are serving that role. However, the attorney fees are unavoidable.
The good news is you don’t necessarily need an attorney for basic probate. A legal document assistant is usually more than enough. Use our California probate attorney fee calculator to see how much an attorney could potentially cost you, and how much you would save if you use our legal document assistance service instead!
Get Help With California Probate
California family probate court can be a huge headache. Not only can it cost a fortune if an attorney is involved, the procedure has a reputation for lasting forever.
A People’s Choice can save you the hassle for an easy flat fee. Our legal document assistants are happy to help you navigate the California family probate court system and lessen some of the headache so you can focus on healing. Contact us at 800-747-2780 to get started!
Leave A Comment