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California Probate Basics

California Probate Basics

The first question most people have about probate is: “What is probate?” Probate is the fancy name for the legal maneuver used to conclude a person’s estate after death. Probate proceedings in California are within the jurisdiction of the Superior Court in the county of the deceased’s residence.

The next question many people have about probate is: “What happens during probate?” Well, someone is usually named executor of the decedent’s estate in the decedent’s will. That person has to file a petition with the court and request to be appointed the executor of the decedent’s estate. Then the court sends all interested persons, including heirs, notices that there will be a hearing. During this hearing, the interested persons can propose any challenges to the will or the probate proceeding. In most cases, there are no objections to the will and the petition to be appointed executor is upheld.

After the executor has been appointed, his or her job begins. First the executor has to make a complete list of all of the estate’s assets and debts. The executor then pays off the creditors, files the necessary tax returns, and manages the other assets of the estate. Once the executor has completed all of his or her duties, a petition must then be filed with the Superior Court requesting that the remainder of the estate be distributed to the heirs. If the judge grants the petition, the estate is then disturbed according to the will, or according to the law of intestate succession.

Another pressing question that many people may have is: “What is the price of probate?” Attorneys in California are limited to a maximum amount they can charge for probating an estate. The fee for both attorneys and executors is based on the value of the estate, which is determined by probate referees. The fee schedule is complicated and set by statute and is found in California Probate Code § 10810. There are also filing fees associated with the petitions. The petition to be appointed executor costs $445.00, as does the petition to distribute the estate. The attorney and executor fees can be increased by order of the judge if the probate case is complex and the estate is sizeable. Here is a link to our probate fee calculator.

The final important question that most people have about probate is: “Is there an advantage to probating an estate?” There are some advantages and disadvantages to going through probate and it is important all readers understand the difference. Probate is handled by a judge and a judge is the most qualified to handle disputes should they arise. However, probate can be expensive, as we have previously discussed.

If you have questions about the California probate process, it is important that you consult an attorney experienced in estate-planning. California probate and estate-planning attorney John Palley at Meissner, Joseph & Palley, Inc., is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law. His office will be happy to assist you with any of your estate planning needs. Call today at 1-888-920-5983.