When people die, they often appoint a close, trusted person to execute their will. This close person is called an executor. Since the average person is not an estate administration expert, filling this role can prove challenging. Perhaps that is why, if you’re a resident of Mendocino County, you want to know how to file probate in Mendocino County probate court.
In this article, we examine probate in general as well as how to file probate in Mendocino County probate court in the simplest way possible. This article shouldn’t be considered legal advice, but we hope it makes the probate process easier if you’re acting as an executor in Mendocino County.
What Is Probate in Mendocino County?
People plan everything, including their deaths. Since estate planning became commonplace in the United States shortly after the Stamp Act of 1797, more and more people have keyed into this concept to secure their wealth for their generations unborn.
In a nutshell, probate throughout the US and Mendocino County by extension is the legal process of managing and administrating an estate of someone who died. First, a judge from the Mendocino County Courthouse must analyze and evaluate a deceased person’s will to determine whether it is valid or authentic. Then the executor (perhaps you) must administer the deceased person’s estate accordingly.
What Is the Point of Probate?
Recall that we defined probate as the process or procedure through which the validity of a deceased person’s will is determined and the assets left behind are shared with the stipulated beneficiaries. The probate process can however serve other purposes. Let us take a look at the different purposes of probate below.
First and foremost, if the deceased person prepared a will before their death, then the first purpose of the probate process will be to validate such will and determine if it is legally binding and was prepared with the full knowledge of the testator. The validation process determines if the court will grant the wishes of the testator’s will.
2. Inventory and Appraisal
This is another purpose of probate. It is meant to give a specific value to the deceased person’s estate. Here, the executor, with the help of a professional will appraise and take inventory of the testator’s probate estate. This will enable the court to know the value of the estate. It will also aid the calculation of estate taxes and other cogent details.
3. Debts and Taxes
Another purpose of probate is to em, power the executor of the testator to oversee and conduct the settlement and payment of the deceased person’s debts and taxes. As soon as the inventory has been done and the estate evaluated, the next step is to identify the debts and taxes of the testator. This will be done by issuing a public statement that notifies creditors to make claims of whatever they are owed within a certain period. If the claims are valid, the debts will be paid from the estate.
4. Distribution of Property and Transfer of Ownership
After taxes and debts have been paid, the remaining assets in the probate estate will be distributed to the heirs and beneficiaries that have been highlighted in the will and the estate will be closed.
Summarily, the probate process is designed to ensure the adequate administration of the will of a deceased person or the administration of the estate of a person who died intestate.
How to File Probate in Mendocino County Probate Court
In California, the court with the jurisdiction to hear and decide on matters that are related to probate in the Superior Court of California. There is a superior court courthouse in every county in California. In fact, some counties have more than one superior court courthouse.
To file probate in the Mendocino County Probate Court, you have to visit the Mendocino County Superior Court courthouse and make your way to the probate division where you will speak with the probate clerk. We strongly recommend that you call ahead to get an appointment.
However, when talking about the steps to filing probate in the Mendocino County Probate Court, it is pretty much the same as every other county. Below, we will go over the steps you need to take when you want to file probate in the Mendocino County Probate Court.
11 Steps to File Probate in Mendocino County
1. Submit the Will
If there is a will, send a copy of the will to the probate clerk in the Mendocino County Superior Court courthouse or take it there in person.
2. File for Probate
The next step is to file a probate petition at the probate division of the Mendocino County Superior Court. This petition should be accompanied by the petition for letters testamentary, which grants the executor all the rights to act and make decisions on behalf of the estate.
What if there is a will but an executor is not named in that will? In that case, whoever is interested in administering the estate must file a petition for letters of administration with the will annexed alongside the probate petition. If there is no will at all, you can file a petition for letters of administration instead.
3. Prepare Your Documents
After filing these petitions, the County probate clerk stipulates a list of documents to be provided which should be signed by the probate judge. At this point, your best bet is to reach out to A People’s Choice to help you prepare these documents in the best way possible to avoid errors and delays. You can also apply for a fee waiver from the court if you qualify.
4. Schedule a Probate Hearing
After the petitions for probate and other paperwork have been filed, the court schedules the initial probate hearing.
5. Inform Interested Parties
Next, the executor or administrator must get in contact with family and other heirs, beneficiaries, survivors, and relatives of the deceased person during the probate hearing. A formal notice should also be published in a newspaper in the county for circulation.
6. Officially Become Executor
The probate hearing officially appoints the personal representative and starts the legal probate process. The executor receives the letters of testamentary issued by the court clerk, which gives the executor the legal authority to do their job. Before receiving the letters testamentary, the court may require the executor to post a probate bond from a reputable surety company.
7. Secure Estate Assets
Upon receiving the letters testamentary, the executor should waste no time in securing the probate estate, collecting the assets, and keeping them managed and protected.
8. Inventory Assets
Upon the securement of the estate and assets, the executor can go ahead to inventory the assets and appraise them with the help of a professional (usually a probate referee) to be sure of the value.
9. Pay Debts and Taxes
The executor has to pay all the debts and taxes that are due from the estate after providing formal notice to creditors to make their claim.
10. Distribute Assets to Beneficiaries and Heirs
At this point, the court schedules a second hearing in which the judge rules and approves the final distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries. After the judge makes this ruling, the executor can distribute the assets according to the decedent’s wishes or the state’s intestacy laws.
11. Prepare Reports of Sale
If any real property was sold, the executor may be required to file a Report of Sale and Petition for Order Confirming Sale of Real Property so that the court can confirm these sales.
12. Close the Estate
Finally, the executor files a report that details how the estate was administered to be reviewed in a final hearing. If the judge is satisfied with the estate administration, the court can officially close the estate.
Get Help With Your Legal Documents
The probate process can be a burden during a difficult time, especially in California, which is why many people want to avoid it at all costs. Don’t worry, though; there’s no need to start hunting through a directory of attorneys or hiring a family law facilitator for help.
At A People’s Choice, we take pride in helping our clients lighten the burden of probate by providing them with every legal document they may need all through the probate proceeding. You can enjoy this too and save countless hours and some cash to boot! We serve Mendocino County as well as surrounding areas including Humboldt County, Butte County, Sonoma County, Alameda County, Amador County, Glenn County, Marin County, Placer County, San Diego County, Solano County, Yolo County, and much more. Reach out to us today!