The Hidden Complexities of DE-111 Petition for Probate
On its face, the DE-111 petition for probate looks fairly simple. We often receive calls from people who wonder why they need to hire someone to prepare such a simple-looking document. Unfortunately, to file a DE-111 petition for probate you will need several different forms and attachments. Although the DE-111 appears, on its face, to be somewhat simple, completing the documents correctly with all the required special attachments can be complicated.
In the DE-111 Petition for Probate, you will need to fill out some basic information about the decedent, the estimated value of the estate and estimated liabilities. The document also asks for the names of close relatives and potential beneficiaries. After the Petition is filed, the court will set a hearing date in which an executor will be formally named. Within 15 days of the hearing, you must serve Notice of Petition to Administer Estate on any beneficiaries named in the will and any people who would inherit if the decedent had died intestate. In addition, you will need to publish a notice in a newspaper in the city where the decedent lived before the hearing. The publication rules vary slightly from county to county in California. Formal notice must also be given to any creditors as well.
Forms Required With DE-111 Petition
There are number other forms you must file with the DE-111 Petition for Probate. For example, when filing a Petition for Probate, the process involves putting together a combination of forms and special attachments. Additional required forms include various non-form attachments and declarations to the Petition for Probate (DE-111), Notice of Petition to Administer Estate (DE-121), Duties and Liabilities of the Personal Representative (DE-147), Order for Probate (DE-150), and Letters (DE-150). There are additional forms to nominate the personal representative, request the court admit a holographic will or for subscribing witnesses. If there is a will, you will need to attach the will to the petition.
All of these additional forms serve different purposes in the probate process. For example, the Duties and Liabilities form outlines the role of the personal representative and informs you that you may be liable for mismanagement. The Order outlines whether or not the personal representative has limited or full authority and if they need a bond. The Letters show that you have the power to act on behalf of the estate. The issuance of Letters is a vital part of the Personal Representative’s ability to act during the probate process. For example, you will need Letters to transfer stock funds or to release funds from a bank account. The personal representative will likely need to withdraw funds from the decedent’s bank account to pay bills.
Typically the court will accept for filing a DE-111 Petition for Probate, even if it is incomplete or not properly prepared. It is important to note, however, if you file an incomplete or incorrect Petition, you will not get far in the process. Before every hearing, a probate examiner meticulously reviews every filed document in the probate case. After this review, the Probate Examiner will post probate notes that point out all of the deficiencies and errors in the documents. Unfortunately, the examiners typically do not publish these probate notes until right before their scheduled hearing. That’s when the problems become apparent. As a result, the court will most likely continue the hearing. In addition, the personal representative will face paying extra fees to a professional to “fix” the problems that were avoidable.
The Three Phases of Probate in California
Completing the DE-111 Petition for Probate is just one of a multitude of steps in the California probate process. Once the court appoints the personal representative, Phase 1 is completed. That is not the end of the process, however. California probate involves three separate phases with multiple steps in each stage to complete the probate process. I cannot tell you how often we hear from people who receive an order to appear in court for their failure to timely complete the probate case! Often people think that once they complete Phase 1, the probate is done. This is not the case.
It usually takes 9-12 months to complete all of the probate steps and receive a discharge from duties as personal representative. Once the court appoints a personal representative, they are responsible for marshaling the decedent’s assets; notifying and paying creditors; maintaining and protecting the property; and distributing the decedent’s assets according to the terms of the will. The probate process will involve several hearings and court appearances you can finalize the case. As mentioned earlier, most probate proceedings take less than 12 months to complete, but it may take longer if there are complications. If a personal representative fails to timely move through the probate process, they expose themselves to the court stripping them of their right to act as personal representative. In the worst-case scenario, the court may assess other penalties!
Not all estates require filing full probate. For example, if the total value of the estate is less than $150,000. you may be able to settle the estate using a small estate affidavit. California offers several small estate options that bypass the need to file formal probate.
The Low-Cost Alternative to Hiring a Probate Attorney
You don’t need to hire an expensive probate attorney to file a DE-111 Petition for Probate. We do, however, recommend you get professional help for this process. A professional’s help will avoid a delay of the court’s approval of your probate Petition and issuance of Letters. Furthermore, hiring a professional will also make sure the probate case moves without unnecessary delay through the three probate phases At A People’s Choice, we provide low-cost probate legal document preparation services in all 58 California counties. Contact us today to learn more information about our probate legal document preparation services. We are here to answer your questions, and are available seven days a week from 8:00 am to 8:30 pm to accommodate people’s busy schedules. Give us a call at 800-747-2780.
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