What is Probate?
The loss of a loved one is a difficult time for a family. Beyond the emotional challenges, there are often many logistical issues that need to be addressed—potentially including probate. In California, probate is often required for property and assets to be transferred from a deceased person’s estate to their heirs. There are many myths and misconceptions about exactly what probate is and how it works. Here, our San Diego probate lawyer provides a guide to probate in California.
An Overview of Probate in California
Probate is a court-supervised process through which a decedent’s estate is settled. As explained by the Superior Court of California for the County of San Diego, the following things must occur during probate in our state:
- The court must determine if a valid will exists;
- The rightful beneficiaries must be determined;
- Creditors and other interested parties must be notified;
- All property owned by the estate must be identified and collected;
- Bills must be paid and any outstanding debts must be resolved; and
- Property and assets must be distributed to the proper heirs.
In other words, probate is a legal process through which a deceased person’s estate is formally settled. In some circumstances, probate is relatively smooth. Unfortunately, that is not always the case—disputes can arise during any step of the probate process.
Who is Responsible for Initiating the Probate Process?
The probate process does not begin automatically in California. Surviving family members cannot rely on a California court to start probate. Instead, a responsible person must file a petition to initiate probate. If there is a will, then the executor named in that document should open the probate process. If there is not a will, then someone close to the deceased (spouse, adult child, etc) can start the probate process and get appointed as the estate administrator
Not All Assets Have to Go Through Probate
Probate has the potential to be a long, frustrating, and complicated process. There are benefits to keeping certain probate and assets out of the probate process. In California, there are a number of different estate planning options available to help avoid probate. For example, assets titled to a legally valid trust will avoid probate. Certain assets can also avoid probate through up-to-date beneficiary designations.
Note: California has a modified process for small estates. If your departed loved one has a small and relatively straightforward estate, assets may be passed outside of the probate process through a small estate affidavit. Call a San Diego small estate probate lawyer for more information.
Contact Our San Diego, CA Probate Attorney for Help
At The Law Office of Kris Mukherji, our San Diego probate lawyer has the professional experience and expertise that you and your family can rely on. If you have any specific questions or concerns about the probate process, we are here to provide answers. Contact our estate planning team to arrange your completely confidential initial consultation. We provide probate law services in San Diego, La Jolla, Oceanside, Chula Vista, Escondido, and throughout the surrounding region.