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A Step-by-Step Guide to Filing a California Probate Case

California laws mandate that when someone dies with or without a will, their assets must be probated before they can be distributed to their heirs or beneficiaries. The process of probating a will or estate can be overwhelming for individuals who are not familiar with the legal process. This guide provides an overview of the steps required to file a California probate case.

When is Probate Required in CA?

Probate is required when a deceased individual owned real estate, had life insurance policies that didn’t name a beneficiary who was alive when the decedent died, had assets of more than $184,500 at the time of death, stock certificates, or other tangible assets like vehicles or boats that need to be transferred out of the decedent’s name. Generally, all properties owned by the decedent should first go through probate, even if there is a surviving spouse.

Don’t Forget These 7 Important Steps When Filing Your California Probate Case

Completing the probate process can feel like an uphill battle, but you can file a successful California probate case if you know what steps are needed in order to complete the process. From gathering necessary documents to serving proper Notice on heirs, this guide outlines the main steps required when filing a probate case.

You will need to complete the following steps:

  • Gather Necessary Documents: Identify and collect all assets, liabilities, accounts, titles, and deeds so that the estate can be inventoried.
  • Determine Who Gets Notice: Depending on the type of case, certain family members and other individuals must be notified about the proceedings. Create a list and review it with your attorney.
  • File for Letters of Administration or for Letters Testamentary: To begin the probate process, your attorney must petition the court to appoint the appropriate administrator or executor.
  • Prepare Initial Inventory Report: An initial inventory must be prepared of all assets and include the respective values for each item as they were on the date of death.
  • Notify Creditors: All known creditors must be notified and given a period to submit claims against the deceased's estate.
  • Manage Estate Assets & Pay Debts: The court will oversee all decisions regarding estate management, including how assets are allocated, and debts are paid out over time.
  • Accounting & Reports to Court: During probate proceedings, regular reports must be filed with the court identifying the status of all assets and liabilities in a timely manner until the completion of probate proceedings is finalized by order of the court.

When filing a probate case, you will need to gather many necessary documents before consulting an attorney. The process can feel overwhelming, but filing a probate petition with the county's Superior Court is a legal necessity that helps you alert heirs that the estate is being processed. Once an executor or administrator is appointed, they will work with the court to complete the remaining key steps needed to finalize your California probate case.

How Long Do You Have to File Probate After Death?

A seasoned attorney can be an invaluable resource for families overwhelmed by the probate process. At the Law Office of Mitchell A. Port, our probate attorney can guide you through laws and regulations related to your case. The time limit for filing a probate case varies depending on which state you are filing in and whether any assets are exempt from probate. In California, you have at least four months after death but no more than one year (or two years if it's an intestacy proceeding) to begin probating the estate.

Contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Port for Probate Solutions

Meeting with an experienced probate attorney will ensure an orderly and efficient conclusion to your probate case. The process wasn’t established to be cumbersome. With the right leadership and management, your case won’t devolve into a never-ending nightmare. Even if you need to complete additional paperwork or file federal or state tax returns, knowing the specific required documentation and filing deadlines will make the case progress smoothly. An attorney can ensure your case is progressing accordingly. An attorney working on your behalf will ensure the successful distribution of assets and finalization of the estate – putting everyone’s mind at ease. Contact our law office at (310) 526-3433 to consult with our experienced probate attorneys.