Losing a loved one is never easy, and no one wants to manage a loved one’s affairs while they are grieving. Depending on the terms and conditions in your loved one’s estate plan, the probate process may be necessary to facilitate the process of asset division. Each state has a particular guideline surrounding the probate process, and California is no different. Understanding the specific steps in the process is the best way to begin probate with little confusion.
What Is Probate?
Probate refers to the process of dividing up assets according to someone’s will. During this process, the will is recognized as legitimate. Then, the appointed executor of the will begins to distribute assets to individuals listed in the document. Anything from personal items and heirlooms to real estate can be divided during this process, which follows the guidelines laid out by the person who has passed. Depending on the estate’s total value, the probate process may not be necessary and can be completely avoided. In California, if the value of your estate is not more than $150,000, the probate process is not needed. However, for estates larger than $150,000, the probate process is required.
Necessary Steps in the Probate Process:
As the executor of another’s will, the most important part of the probate process starts with understanding your role and gathering any necessary information. Knowing who needs to be contacted, as well as how they will be contacted, is crucial for the probate process to run smoothly. Below is a list of the seven crucial steps of the probate process:
- Filing the Petition: After the death of a person whose will is going to probate, the process must be initiated by filing a petition with the District Superior Court location in your county. After this petition is filed, you can be given notice of a hearing within 30 days of filing.
- Notice Handling: Once your hearing date is set, the local newspaper will announce a notice of the hearing a minimum of three times to help notify those that could have a stake in the will. For those outlined in the will, a mailed notice will be sent out, and creditors will also be notified.
- Will Proving: Depending on whether there is a will, the will needs to be authenticated unless it is considered a self-proving will. The clauses of the will, as well as the specific language contained in the document, need to be reviewed before moving to the next step.
- Collecting Assets: After authenticating the will, the complete list of assets outlined in the document will be collected. However, only the assets that are required to go through probate are included in this step. Assets such as stocks and bonds, mutual funds, and bank or credit union accounts need to be taken care of separately through a title change.
- Pay Creditors: Once creditors are made aware of the deceased’s passing, they have a right to file claims for any unsettled debts that will be paid out from the estate. Any bills, and funeral expenses, can be included in these payments.
- Pay Estate Taxes: Before Distributing the estate to any beneficiaries outlined in the will, any lingering estate taxes must be handled. These estate taxes can range from Federal estate taxes to California state taxes. If they are not handled before the assets of the will are distributed, the guarantor of the will may be liable to settle these debts.
- Conclude the Estate: The last step of the probate process includes the closing of the estate. If applicable, the final petition used to conclude the estate will outline any fees owed to estate planning Once settled, any lingering assets may be divided among family members.
Questions Regarding the Probate Process
Q: What are the steps to probate in California?
A: After filing a petition to begin the process, a hearing for your probate process will begin in approximately 30 days. Those in the will receive notice that they must attend this hearing, and the executor will begin proving the will’s legitimacy and gathering assets. Finally, after paying any estate taxes and creditors, the estate will be divided and officially closed.
Q: How long does the probate process take in California?
A: Depending on the soundness of the will, as well as the number of beneficiaries and the size of the estate, the probate process can take anywhere from six months to two years. In some cases, when people pass without a will or living will, the probate process can become tricky. This makes the settlement of the estate take a bit longer.
Q: How much does an estate have to be worth to go to probate in California?
A: The minimum estate value legally required for the probate process in California is $150,000. If necessary, your estate planning lawyer can file a Petition to Determine Succession to Real Property, which begins the probate process. For estates over $150,000, after successfully filing a probate petition with the court, the process will begin 30 days after filing.
Q: How much are probate fees in California?
A: The initial filing fee for the probate process is $435. However, depending on the length of the asset division process, the amount you pay for your probate can vary. For example, hearings lasting around seven to eight months will inevitably cost less than those lasting closer to two years. Fees for an estate lawyer vary from practice to practice.
The Flanigan Law Group for California Probate
The nature of California’s probate process is complex and can be confusing for those without an in-depth understanding of the process. Before beginning the probate process, securing a lawyer to help gather your loved one’s estate is crucial for a smooth division of assets. At The Flanigan Law Group, our team is well-versed in California estate law and can help make the process easy to understand for you and your family. For more information on our services, including a full list of our practice areas, contact us today.