How to Probate in Court in California
Probate in California is a court-supervised process through which a deceased’s person’s will (or lack thereof) is confirmed, their estate is settled, and their assets are transferred to the proper heirs. If you and your family are preparing for probate in San Diego County, it is normal to have a lot of questions. At The Law Office of Kris Mukherji, we want to make sure that you have the knowledge and resources that you need to effectively navigate the process. In this article, our San Diego probate law attorney explains the key things to know about how to probate in court in California.
How to Probate in California: An Overview of the Process
Step #1: Determine if Probate is Necessary
To start, you must determine if probate is necessary. Probate is actually not required in every case in California. Under state law (California Probate Code § 13050), certain assets—such as community property owned jointly with a spouse—can pass outside of probate. Additionally, with small estates, beneficiaries may be able to claim property through a small estate affidavit without formal probate.
Step #2: FIle a Petition to Open the Probate Process
If probate is required, it is important to understand that it does not start automatically. Someone needs to file a petition to initiate the probate process (DE-111 (Petition For Probate). In general, this person should be the executor named in the will or the administrator of the estate.
Step #3: Ensure that Proper Notices are Filed
The executor or administrator has a duty to notify all interested parties. Among other parties, this includes anyone named in the will, anyone with inheritance rights, and any creditors that have claims against the estate.
Step #4: Prove the Will (Or Prepare for Intestate Succession)
If there is a will, the document must be submitted to the California probate court. The validity of the will must be established. If there is not a will, then the order of intestate succession will be determined by the probate court.
Step #5: Identify and Collect All Assets Covered by the Estate
The will executor or estate administrator is also responsible for identifying and collecting all of the property and assets that are owned/controlled by the estate. A comprehensive inventory is an essential part of California’s probate process.
Step #6: Pay Bills, Taxes, and (Valid) Creditor Claims
Once assets are identified and collected, all outstanding claims against the estate must be resolved. Bills must be paid, taxes must be paid, and any outstanding creditors’ claims that are deemed legally valid must be resolved.
Step #7: Distribute Property and Assets to the Rightful Heirs
Finally, when everything is settled, the property and assets covered by the estate will be distributed to the appropriate heirs. Probate in California can take anywhere from a few months to multiple years. A San Diego probate lawyer can help you navigate the process in the most efficient manner—with a focus on protecting your rights and interests.
Schedule Your Confidential Consultation With a San Diego Probate Attorney
At The Law Office of Kris Mukherji, our San Diego probate law attorney is a skilled, solutions-driven advocate for clients. If you have questions about how to navigate probate court in California, we can help. Give us a call now or contact our firm online to set up a completely confidential initial appointment with an attorney. We handle probate law matters throughout San Diego County, including in San Diego, La Jolla, Oceanside, Chula Vista, Escondido, El Cajon, and Carlsbad.