In a nutshell, it can take anywhere from nine to eighteen months on average. However, the procedure can take much more time if the estate in question is complicated or challenged in court. On the other hand, if you have an experienced attorney handling your probate case, the probate process can take much less time and run much more smoothly. If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for a more comprehensive answer than the lawyerly “it depends,” so we will walk you through the process to better understand probate and the steps required. We hope this blog helps you, but if you still have questions or need to speak with a probate attorney, we’d love to talk to you!
The Probate Process Step-By-Step
When trying to get an idea of how long it takes to go through probate in California, the first thing to know is the sequence of events that must occur within the legal system after the passing of a loved one. Every will that goes through the probate process in the state must go through a series of processes, even if everything goes according to plan and the will is legitimate.
Step #1: Petition for Probate Filing
If everything has been planned out and the person in charge of managing the estate, known as the executor, is aware that he or she is performing in this role, then the executor will file the Petition for Probate in the county where the person who died, known as the decedent, resided. As soon as the court receives the petition, it will set a hearing for a period of time up to a few months weeks later. A petition can be submitted by a close relative even if there is neither a plan nor a will.
Step #2: Notice of Probate
Once the petition has been submitted, the executor (the estate’s personal representative) is responsible for publishing a Notice of Probate in the newspaper. This individual is also responsible for informing any beneficiaries of the estate as well as possible heirs about the situation that has arisen. Notification is also required to be given to anyone who owes money to the estate.
Step #3: Making Sure the Will Is Binding
During the hearing, the executor will have the opportunity to demonstrate that the will is legally valid and drafted properly. This means that he or she will have to convince the court that the will should be enforceable. In order for this to take place, there are a few prerequisites that need to be satisfied, including the following: The drafter of the will must be an adult; and if handwritten, it must have the drafter’s signature; and if it is typed, it still needs to be signed, but in the presence of two witnesses (who must also sign).
Step #4: Asset Gathering & Distribution
The court will issue letters testamentary to the executor of the will once it has determined that the will is valid and binding. These letters allow the executor to gather the estate’s assets and prepare them for administration. In most cases, the executor will also need to obtain a tax identification number at this point, as taxes may need to be paid on the estate. In addition to this, the executor is responsible for settling and paying liabilities and preparing for any potential taxes due.
Step #5: Paying Liabilities
Creditors notified of an estate going through probate must claim any debt they are owed. If all of this is taken care of in the right way, the executor will be able to clear the estate of these obligations by paying off these liabilities. Certain estates will be subject to both federal and state tax responsibility, and both of these types of tax obligations need to be satisfied as well.
Step #6: Request to The Court to Close the Estate
When all of these things have been completed, the executor can make a request to the court to close the estate. If the court grants the request, the assets of the estate will be dispersed to the heirs who were designated in the will. This brings an end to the matter.
* The above steps are what a normal probate looks like when there are no wrenches thrown into the process. Errors in the will that subject it to challenges, improper notification to creditors, or creditor claims that you believe to be invalid are examples of circumstances that will prolong the probate process.
Estate Planning Tailored to Your Objectives
Fortunately, with proper planning, you can save your loved ones the headache and stress of a long, complex probate process. Alice A. Salvo is an estate planning, trust and probate law certified specialist by the California State Bar. This prestigious certification ensures you of excellence regarding these legal matters and has been earned by only a select few prominent California probate attorneys. When you’re ready to take control of your legacy, contact us! Your initial consultation with a Woodland Hills, California estate planning attorney is free.