Probate Attorney Referral Service

What is Probate?

Probate is a legal process by which a person’s legal and financial affairs are settled after death. It becomes necessary when an estate’s assets do not meet the probate shortcuts available under California law and can take anywhere from eight months to years to finalize. In California, Probate proceedings are conducted in the California Superior Court, in the county in which the decedent lived.

During Probate, a person nominated in the will as executor will file a Probate Petition with the court asking to be appointed executor. If no will exists, the California Probate Code will provide a list of individuals who have priority to become an administrator of the state.

When a Will does exist, a Probate Notice will be sent to any heirs named in the Will, or relatives, to let them know there will be a Probate hearing. If there is a contest as to the Will’s validity, or if there is an objection to the Probate petition, the hearing will be held to resolve any issues.

The Executor of the estate will then:

  • Make an inventory of the estate’s assets
  • Locate creditors
  • Pay outstanding bills
  • File outstanding tax returns
  • And manage the estate’s assets.

Under California law, the Executor can usually take care of most estate matters without getting permission from the Probate court. This means the Executor can, without court supervision:

  • Sell estate property
  • Pay taxes
  • And approve or reject claims from creditors.

During Probate, the Executor has a duty to keep all the estate assets safe. Additionally, the Executor cannot sell real estate without court approval.

Once all this has been completed, another petition will be filed to request that the estate be distributed to the heirs.

Why would I need an attorney for Probate?

Probate can be complicated, especially if there is a contest by family members or other interested parties. There may be a question as to whether a Will is valid. If there is no Will, there may be a dispute as to what the decedent’s wishes were, and who should administer the estate during Probate proceedings.

An attorney experienced in Probate will be able to handle these disputes in a professional manner. Sometimes, an estate has more debts than assets, and legal counsel will be needed to determine how to best handle that issue.

Additionally, a Probate attorney will be a third party who will be able to explain the legal issues to the client and give options and consequences to those options. An attorney who has experience in Probate proceedings will know what the best way to proceed is based on the decedent’s estate and the state of affairs left after the person’s death.

If there is no dispute, Probate is mostly completing forms and filing them with the Probate Court. However, you must fill the forms out completely and truthfully. Just because the forms are ‘fill-in-the-blanks’, it does not mean that you will always do it correctly. You may give an incorrect answer to a seemingly simply question. A Probate attorney will be able to explain each form and revise the answers before the forms are filed in Probate Court.

Proceeding through Probate with an attorney will ensure no mistakes are made and that the proceedings go as quickly as possible. One mistake could turn an eight month proceeding time frame into a year or more. Contact us at 818-340-4529.