When a person dies with or without a will, there is a legal process known as probate that facilitates the transfer of property to the person’s beneficiaries and heirs and pays any debts owed by the deceased. In some cases, depending on the size and worth of the deceased’s estate, full probate is not necessary, and the heirs can use simplified probate procedures. If the decedent has no property to transfer, there is no need for probate. The steps for filing a full probate in California can create an often lengthy process: California law requires the estate’s personal representative to finish probate within a year or sometimes 18 months. If someone contests the will, or if other complications arise, full probate can take years. There is a helpful diagram of the probate process that provides a visual overview of the steps for filing probate in California and gives an idea of the length of time involved.

What Are The Steps for Filing Probate in California?

Unfortunately, there are numerous steps for filing probate in California, and the process can take between 5 to 7 months. First, if there is a will, it must be filed with the court within 30 days of the deceased’s death. The probate petition is usually started by the estate’s personal representative named in the will or, if one is not named, by a court-appointed representative. If named in the will, a court must still confirm the personal representative and issue documents authorizing him or her to act as a personal representative. If the estate representative determines that the deceased’s property must pass through full probate (e.g., if it is over $166,250 in value and not community property) the first step is to file a petition for probate. This is a form provided by California courts and filed in the county where the deceased died or, if the deceased was a non-resident of California, in the county where the deceased owned real property. Additional forms are required depending on the particular situation.

After you file the petition, the court clerk will set a hearing for the case. Someone will need to send Notice of the hearing to all possible beneficiaries of the estate. Any adult not a party to the case can send this notice.

The personal representative must then gather all assets and file an inventory and appraisal form. Since the personal representative must pay out the estate’s debts, he or she must notify the creditors by sending them the Notice of Administration to Creditors form before paying those outstanding debts.

The probate court then determines who receives the remaining property, and the representative distributes the assets. If the representative sells any real estate, the personal representative must file A Report of Sale and Petition for Order Confirming Sale of Real Property with the court to confirm any sales. The personal representative must prepare and file an estate tax return if the estate earned any income, and must also prepare a final income tax return for the deceased.

After this is taken care of, the personal representative must file a final plan and accounting with the court to show how he handled everything as representative. If the court is satisfied that the personal representative correctly carried out their duties, the court will release the personal representative from his obligations.

Attorney’s fees in a probate proceeding can be very high and are tied to a percentage of the estate and the steps for filing probate in California are complicated. To determine the statutory probate attorney fees in a particular estate, use our online probate calculator. If no one is contesting the will and no other complications arise, , a personal representative can probably safely file for probate on his or her own with a little professional help.

Low-Cost Help to File Probate in California

If you think the steps for filing probate in California are just too confusing and want a little help without having to use an expensive attorney,  contact A People’s Choice for low-cost legal document help. Although we cannot give legal advice, A People’s Choice can prepare the required documentation and help in completing all the steps for filing probate in California, saving you thousands of dollars in statutory attorneys fees in the process.

Get help with your California legal documents today!

A People’s Choice can save you hundreds of dollars by preparing your legal documents instead of an expensive attorney!


If you or an heir need more information about California probate,  do not hesitate to call our office. A People’s Choice has been providing probate services for over 35 years and has established an excellent reputation in the community.  When you are ready to get started,  information for your paperwork can be provided to us several different ways – either through our convenient online system, over the phone, by completing a written worksheet, or in person.

You must file probate in the county where the decedent lived or, if the decedent lived out of the state of California, in the county where the real property is located. A People’s Choice can help with all the steps to file and complete full probate in California. Keep in mind, we process probate filings in every probate court in California. Call 800-747-2780 and learn how we can save you thousands of dollars completing your probate instead of using an attorney.