In California, probate is the process by which the Court oversees the administration of the estate of a person who has died with assets that exceed $150,000 with no trust or beneficiary designations. Assets such as retirement accounts, life insurance benefits, and pension funds — which are transferred to the beneficiary by contract — are not subject to probate. Probate serves to ensure that the estate is valued impartially, that debts and bills owed by the estate are paid, and that the estate is distributed in accordance with the decedent’s wishes.
The probate process includes:
• Filing the Will (if one exists) and a Petition for Probate document with the county probate court.
• Demonstrating to the court that the Will is valid.
• Receiving from the probate court Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration, which authorize the person to perform executor duties.
• Establishing an estate banking account.
• Taking inventory of the estate assets and obtaining appraisals for real estate, collectibles, jewelry, and other valuables and filing the inventory with the probate court.
• Identifying debtors.
• Paying taxes and other bills.
• Resolving any disputes.
• Requesting the probate court to close the estate.
Once the probate judge approves closing the estate, the executor can then distribute the remaining assets. If there is a Will, the assets must be distributed according to the wishes expressed in the Will.
Probate administration is a complex and lengthy process and can take up to several months to over a year to resolve. This is why it is important to hire an experienced estate lawyer to oversee the probate process. Tseng Law Firm can assist with each step in the process, prepare all documentation properly, and handle any surprises that might arise. The goal is to avoid unnecessary delays, leading to a quicker resolution.