For executors in California, the time immediately following a loved one’s death is challenging. Not only do you have to deal with the loss, but you also must handle issues related to the deceased’s last will and testament. We often help clients address issues related to the transfer of assets.

According to the Superior Court of California, probate is the process that legally transfers property from the estate to the decedent’s heirs.

Court requirements

Probate is necessary when there is property, and when there are debts owed. As executor, you must complete paperwork and appear in court, for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Prove that the will is valid
  • Distribute property according to the will’s terms
  • Identify the decedent’s property
  • Inventory items and have them appraised
  • Pay debts and taxes

California has simplified procedures for estates worth $150,000 or less that meet certain criteria.  However, depending on the circumstances and details, many estate assets could bypass probate.

Non-probate estate

Several types of assets can belong to the non-probate estate. If the estate plan contains Health Savings Accounts, Beneficiary Deeds or Transfer on Death designations, they may avoid probate. Check the documents for a revocable living trust, life insurance policies, IRAs, annuities and 401(k)s, as they may also be part of the non-probate estate.

Going through the court system and completing the required documentation is a time-consuming, complex process. If everything goes smoothly, it may only take six months to a year before your duties are complete. However, if you cannot provide the information needed to the court or if a family member contests the will, it could take much longer and include litigation. Although you must complete a few tasks immediately, many duties can wait until after you have had a chance to grieve.