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What Happens After Probate Is Closed in California?

02/19/2024 | Blog
Relaxed senior man signing a legal document at home for his estate plan

The probate process can be confusing. However, it’s often a key part of settling a person’s estate–and letting those left behind move on. But what happens after probate is “closed”? And how long does the process take?

Below, we take a closer look at what probate is and the steps involved in closing probate.

What Is Probate?

Probate is a legal process for distributing someone’s estate after they pass away. It involves:

  • Confirming a will
  • Appointing a personal representative (or approving the executor, if there’s a will)
  • Paying debts and liabilities
  • Gathering property
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries

Not all property must go through probate; however, it’s often required. Our team can explain what assets might be exempt from probate in more detail.

How Long Does Probate Normally Last?

In California, probate normally lasts at least eight months. However, it may last a year or more depending on, for example:

  • The assets involved
  • Whether anyone contests an existing will
  • How long it takes to confirm the executor or appoint a representative

Our probate attorneys can determine how long your probate might take, depending on your unique estate.

What “Closed” Probate Means in California

Closing probate means closing the estate. At this point, you’re ready to distribute the estate. Debts and other costs are paid, and liabilities are settled. The remaining estate can be distributed to heirs or beneficiaries.

Does this mean there is still an estate after probate is closed? It might, but not always. There may not be enough property left over, after paying debts and other costs, to distribute to beneficiaries. Our probate lawyers can explain what this means for heirs and others with an interest in the will.

How to Close Probate in California

Although you should contact our team to discuss what happens after probate is closed, here is an overview of the main steps.

  • First, you must acknowledge any creditors’ claims made. Paying outstanding debts, such as tax bills and funeral expenses, takes priority over distributing assets to heirs.
  • Then, the outstanding debts must be paid. This could mean selling property to pay creditors if there’s no cash or other assets available to cover debts. If there’s no money in the estate to cover the debt, your attorney can explain how to proceed.
  • The personal representative must then produce a final account, or a waiver of account. The report shows how the representative administered the estate. It includes a list of assets, their value, and how debts were settled.
  • Next, the representative files a petition with the court to distribute the remaining estate. The petition includes the final account, or waiver of account, and what assets remain to be distributed. Petitions are complex – you should seek legal advice before completing this stage.
  • Anyone with an interest in the estate should have an opportunity to object to the handling of the estate. If there are no objections, and the petition is in order, the court closes the estate.
  • Once probate is closed, assets can be divided between the beneficiaries.
  • The personal representative can then apply to be relieved of their duties. At this point, they’re no longer personally responsible for the estate.

Our attorneys will walk you through each stage in turn so you have confidence in moving forward.

Can Any Legal Action Be Taken After Probate Is Closed?

Can an estate be sued after probate is closed? Potentially, yes. For example, someone may not discover assets until probate closes. Or a beneficiary might be concerned that the estate wasn’t closed properly.

In such cases, you need urgent legal advice to ensure that you stand the best chance of using probate law in your favor. Our experienced attorneys can explain what options may be available.

California Probate Attorneys

Do you have more questions about what happens after probate is closed? Or do you need an estate planning attorney in California? Contact the Law Offices of Alice. A. Salvo. Our experienced CA probate attorneys can explain the process and give you much-needed peace of mind.

Call now or reach us online to learn more.