Most people don’t think about the word probate until someone close to them passes away. After a loved one dies, surviving family members can be overwhelmed with making final arrangements while trying to determine how to manage the decedent’s estate. During this challenging time, it can be stressful to try and navigate the complexities of probate law and court procedures. Knowing what to expect during the California probate process can help make the situation less stressful and intimidating.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process which an estate goes through when a person dies. The probate court oversees situations where the individual who died had a valid will, and property needs to be administered to his or her heirs. The court will also distribute an estate in the event the person dies without a will and make decisions regarding payment of estate debts.
How does Probate Work?
If the individual who died had a will, he or she would have named an executor, and if the person died without a will, or intestate, the probate court will appoint an administrator. These individuals will oversee the distribution of the estate assets to heirs and identify debts and assets for the court as follows:
· The case will begin when the executor or survivors file the will or a notice with the court indicating there is not a will.
· The executor or administrator will be granted the necessary authority to access the person’s estate and begin its administration. This usually starts with the named person taking inventory of the decedent’s debts and assets and creating a detailed list which will be filed with the court.
· After the assets and debts have been officially identified, the decedent’s creditors will get notice and have an opportunity to make claims against the estate to be paid the debts owed to them. The probate court then considers these claims and decide whether to reject or accept them. Approved claims will be paid from the estate assets.
· Once approved creditor claims are paid, the remainder of the estate can be distributed to the appropriate heirs.
How Long does Probate Take?
In California, the probate process can take anywhere from 9 to 18 months to finish provided there are not any major disputes. However, if heirs disagree and wish to challenge a will, then the case could take much longer. Additionally, the creditors will have several months to file against the estate.
Probate can be a costly process which reduces the amount available to heirs. The good news is that with careful planning, you can avoid the California probate process and protect your assets. At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we have experienced attorneys to discuss your estate planning needs and can help you understand your options. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.