One thing we have learned from our time practicing in the area of estate planning is that no two client estate plans are exactly the same. It follows that no two probate procedures are the same. How long probate funds are disbursed after the probate process starts depends on a variety of complex factors. We understand why clients, fiduciaries, and heirs want to know how long this will take. While we cannot tell you exactly how long your future or even current probate process will take, we can give you an educational overview of what to expect from the process.
To close a probate estate, the fiduciary (the executor or trustee) must file a final account of the estate and petition for final distribution, set the petition for hearing, notify interested parties of the hearing, and secure a court order granting the final distribution when the probate procedure is completed. The California petition for final distribution provides a full history of the probate matter to the court.
It explains the fiduciary’s justification and reasoning on why they believe the estate is fully prepared to close and details the payouts to beneficiaries. This final petition is typically a tailored pleading that tackles specific legal difficulties with the probate estate’s initial administration.
The administrator has to wait at least four months from the date the court issued letters of administration to submit a petition for final distribution of the decedent’s remaining estate assets. If the estate administrator can’t file a petition for final distribution of the estate within (1) year after receiving the court’s letters, they must produce a verified report on the estate assets. This should be completed before the administrator considers making a closing statement.
This report is mean to serve as a documented representation detailing why the administrator has not been able to close the estate and how much time it will take to do so. The court will then schedule a status report for the hearing. At this point, the administrator must serve a notice of hearing on all interested parties. The court will determine whether to keep the estate open or close it during the hearing.
For each claim made through a legal process, the administrator must prepare and file an allowance or rejection of claims. Then, creditors will have 60 days after receiving notification to submit a claim, or four months after receiving notice of letters. When a creditor submits a claim, the administrator has 30 days to pay, allow, reject, or fight the claim.
Claim payments are made in the following order of priority:
If the estate does not have enough money to fulfill the claims, its real estate must be sold (by a legal notice) to meet outstanding debts such as estate taxes.
Most of the time, the decedent’s real estate or other assets are not to be dispersed until a court order is issued. As a result, the court will schedule a formal hearing date once the administrator files a California petition for a final distribution.
If the petition for final distribution is granted by the court, the administrator must file an order for the final distribution of assets at this time. The administrator might then divide the remaining assets as needed.
After the probate process is completed, heirs and beneficiaries must sign a receipt of distribution indicating the allocation of estate assets. The signed receipts must then be filed with the court by the administrator. When the estate has been distributed completely in accordance with the order, the administrator may request a final discharge & order.
Finally, once the administrator has divided the estate’s assets in accordance with the court order, the court will release the administrator from any liability. However, the administrator may be called upon to distribute any assets that remained unaccounted for after the estate was closed.
Wherever you are in life, making a proper estate plan should be a top priority. Estate planning is key to creating a lasting legacy and making the process as smooth as possible for your loved ones. While you may be tempted to use a one-size-fits-all online service, only an expert estate planning attorney can manage your individual and unique circumstances to give you total assurance and peace of mind. Please call our office at to schedule a free consultation and get all your questions answered.