Note, not all estates need to go through a formal probate process. In this regard, California probate law requires an estate to go through the full probate process if its value exceeds $166,250 (this includes real or personal property in the decedent’s name that exceeds this value). By comparison, you can settle smaller estates valued less than $166,250 using other simplified probate processes. If there is no real property, for example, a court proceeding may not even be necessary. In this situation, beneficiaries can send an affidavit signed under oath to a financial institution to claim an interest in the decedent’s estate under simplified California probate procedures.
Lisa passed away from stomach cancer in 2008. She willed her daughter Sarah $130,000. First Sunshine State Credit Union held the account. Because the estate’s value is under $130,000, Sarah can send an affidavit through a simplified non-court procedure to get her inheritance.
How to File Probate in Sonoma County
The decedent’s Executor or living relative can begin the probate process. First, to file for probate, the Executor/relative must file a petition for probate with the local court clerk. Next, based on the circumstances, the court will grant Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration to the personal representative. After that, the estate must go through an inventory and appraisal process. The probate referee will appraise all non-monetary assets of the estate. The personal representative must give proper notice of the probate to all the decedent’s creditors. In like manner, creditors have the opportunity to make claims against the estate for unpaid debts. Once the personal representative pays all taxes and debts, the personal representative can distribute all remaining assets to the estate’s beneficiaries and heirs.
Where to File Probate in Sonoma County
Probate petitions are filed at the following place in Sonoma County:
Civil and Family Law Courthouse, 3055 Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Office hours are between 8:00 am to 3:30 pm Monday through Friday. The Probate Clerk’s office is in the Family Law Department, across the hall from Courtroom 18.
Sonoma County Probate Rules
Rule 6 of the Sonoma County Local Rules provides special procedures for probate cases filed in Sonoma County. It is essential to familiarize yourself with the local rules before submitting any legal documents to the court.
Adjudicated Newspapers for Sonoma County
There are several newspapers in Sonoma County that are available to handle the publication of the legal notice for probate. You can find a list of approved newspapers on the court’s website. With this in mind, special rules control which paper is the proper newspaper for the publication. A People’s Choice facilitates arranging the required publication for our client’s cases. This avoids any unnecessary delay as a result of publishing in the wrong newspaper.
Sonoma County Probate Examiner
The current probate examiner for Sonoma County is Kelly Jenkins. In this regard, you can contact the probate examiner using the following contact information. Keep in mind, the probate examiner is not allowed to give legal advice.
3055 Cleveland Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
The job of the probate examiner is to review the documents filed in probate matters and other cases involving trust and decedent’s estates. In other words, the examiner will check the filed petition and other documents to make sure they comply with the Probate Code and the local court rules. In this regard, during the review, the examiner may discover procedural deficiencies or concerns that must be corrected or clarified before the judge can make its decision on the Petition. After review, the examiner will post the Court’s tentative ruling on the court’s website. In this regard, these tentative rulings are usually available on the day before the hearing, after 11:00 AM by calling (707) 521-6881. In addition, the tentative rulings are also posted by 12 pm the day before the hearing. Provided that the examiner posts the tentative ruling, you can review Probate Tentative rulings on the court’s website by clicking here.
Understanding the Tentative Ruling Process
The tentative ruling process in Sonoma County streamlines the probate process. Keep in mind, if the tentative ruling is accepted, you may not need to appear at the court hearing. If you wish to oppose a tentative ruling, you must contact the probate clerk at (707) 521-6893. Furthermore, any party who wants to be heard and oppose the petition must give notice to all other parties of their intent to appear. The party opposing must provide notice by 4:00 p.m. on the court day before the actual day of the hearing. Remember, unless someone gives notice of opposition to the probate clerk, the tentative rulings will become the court’s formal ruling at 10:45 a.m. on the day of the hearing.
For people who find it difficult to personally appear in court, CourtCall is available for telephone appearances on the probate calendar. While this may be true, the court does not allow telephonic appearances on petitions to confirm the sale of property and other similar matters. CourtCall Video is also available for remote court appearances on the probate calendar.
Sonoma County Probate Referee
There are two probate referees authorized by the court to appraise estates in Sonoma County. They are:
John W. Shackford, P.O. Box 412, Napa, CA 94559-0412; Phone: (707) 255-8121; FAX: (707) 253-9336; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael L. Torr, 160 Wikiup Drive, Suite 201, Santa Rosa, CA 95403; Phone: (707) 544-8636; FAX: (707) 526-3758; e-mail: email@example.com
Basically, the probate referee’s job is to value the non-cash assets of the decedent. More specifically, in full probate, this step takes place after the court has issued Letters to the personal representative. In addition, the probate referee charges a fee equal to 0.1% of the value of assets appraised. Keep in mind, the probate referee can also can charge for mileage and expenses for photocopying and other incidental costs.
How to Complete Probate in Sonoma County
Contact A People’s Choice for help in completing the probate process in Sonoma County. You will save thousands of dollars in legal fees by working with an experienced legal document preparer. If you need more information on how to file probate in Sonoma County, you can call 800-747-2780. We can tell you exactly how much using our non-attorney probate services will save your particular estate which will undoubtedly put more money into the pockets of the beneficiaries and heirs.