When someone dies in California, their property will typically need to pass through probate before it goes to their family members or other estate beneficiaries. Probate can take months and may require the repayment of debt and the payment of taxes before anyone from the family receives property from the estate.
The sooner you initiate probate proceedings, the sooner family members can gain control over assets that they need to maintain the family. What steps do you have to take to initiate probate proceedings for an estate in California?
Locate the last will and determine the representative of the estate
People who create the state plans often name a specific individual to serve as their executor or estate administrator. Finding the last will or estate plan of the deceased person is an important step toward carrying out their last wishes in cases where someone does not mean a specific executor, the California probate courts may need to name someone.
File a copy of the last will and other financial records with the Probate Court
Once you have a copy of the last will or an inventory of the assets left behind by someone who died without an estate plan, you can file the paperwork to open probate proceedings for the estate. The courts will name an executor if necessary.
They will begin accepting claims from creditors regarding the assets in the estate. When the executor fulfills their various responsibilities, they provide documentation to the courts. The courts can intervene in cases where family members alleged incompetence or corruption by an executor. In most cases, the courts simply provide oversight while the executor pays debts and then distributes property.
The better you understand the probate process in California, the more realistic your expectations about the process will be.