How Long is Probate in California?
About a year, at least – maybe longer.
Assuming a Petition for Probate is filed on January 1 in Los Angeles Superior Court, the Court will calendar the Petition for a hearing about 6 to 10 weeks later. Before the scheduled hearing date, the Court posts Notes online which ask questions about or point out defects in the Petition that need to be satisfactorily responded to before the hearing date. If the Notes are not adequately responded to, then the Court will continue the hearing date for another 6 weeks or so to give you time to respond; by the new hearing date, the Notes ought to be cleared up so as to avoid any further continuances. So the hearing date from the original January 1 filing date is about mid- to late-April.
At the April hearing, the Court will hopefully grant the Petition for Probate, admit the Will (if there is one), and schedule a date about 15 months later when the probate must either be complete or an explanation for why it has not been completed must be provided.
Sometime about 3 to 4 weeks after the April hearing, the Court will issue the Order for Probate along with Letters. Together, those two documents empower the personal representative (either the executor if there is a Will or the administrator is there is no Will) to do all things necessary to wind-down the affairs of the person who died including paying all taxes and resolving all creditors’ claims.
Before the probate can begin to wind down with the filing of another petition, 120 days must first pass from the date the Letters are issued by the Court. If those Letters are issued around mid-May, then sometime around mid-September the 120-day creditor claim period will run out. By that time, all creditor claims not already filed with the Court are barred. The estate is now protected from ongoing creditors’ claims so that what remains in the estate is generally a fixed value relatively easy to divide and distribute among the various heirs or beneficiaries.
By mid-September, a Petition for Final Distribution may be in order. It asks permission of the Court to distribute the estate to the heirs or beneficiaries by claiming that all the business of the estate has been completed and the estate is now in a position to be distributed and closed.
As with the original Petition for Probate, the Court will calendar the Petition for Final Distribution sometime about 6 to 12 weeks after filing it, that is, it’ll be set for a Court hearing date as late as mid-January of the next year. Assuming all the Notes posted online regarding this particular Petition have been cleared up, the hearing can proceed as scheduled. When the Court grants the Petition for Final Distribution, the personal representative has to file an Order for the Court to sign which specifies the terms of the distribution that were already spelled out in the Petition for Final Distribution. The Court will hopefully sign the Order about 2 to 3 weeks after the hearing, or sometime around mid-February.
The personal representative has to get Receipts from all the heirs or beneficiaries acknowledging their receipt of their portion of the estate. The personal representative has to file all of those Receipts with the Court.
Finally, the personal representative can prepare an Ex Parte Petition for Final Discharge and Order. If real property was part of the estate that was distributed, then that Ex Parte Petition requires a copy of the deed that was recorded with the county recorder’s office proving that the real estate was properly distributed and recorded by the county. Waiting for recordation can take several more weeks. By the time the Ex Parte Petition can be filed, it may be sometime around mid-April.
So, beginning from January 1 of year 1 to the time when the Ex Parte Petition is signed by the Court and completes the probate process, it might be May 1 of year 2.
All of this assumes everything that can go right actually does goes right and that there are no objections filed or other hurdles created by anyone along the way. It is possible to shorten the time between the events described above and get the entire probate done in less than a year.
This description is very general in nature and not intended to be a timeline to be followed precisely.