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Probate Process in California

When a loved one passes away, it can be a very difficult time for family and friends, those who the decedent left behind. Additionally, the decedent’s family or close friends often have to figure out how to transfer or inherit the decedent’s property.

The property that a decedent leaves behind is referred to as the “decedent’s estate,” and the “estate” makes up everything the decedent owned at the time of their death. For a decedent’s property to be transferred or inherited, someone usually has to go to court to get the process started – a complicated process. In some cases, loved ones can transfer a decedent’s property without going to court.

Do You Need to Go to Court?

If you’re not familiar with wills, estates, trusts, and California’s probate and intestate succession laws, it can be difficult to tell if you need to go to court after a loved one’s death. If the decedent left behind a will, it has to be probated in probate court. However, the decedent may have had some assets that can be distributed without going to probate court.

For example, assets with beneficiary designations pass outside of probate. These include life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts with payable on death designations. Also, homes that are owned by two or more people as joint tenants avoid probate because the other owners inherit the property. Property in living trusts and real estate with transfer-on-death deeds can be transferred without probate.

The Probate Process

Probate is the process of validating a will, determining who the decedent’s heirs or beneficiaries are, determining the value of the decedent’s property, paying off the decedent’s outstanding debts, and transferring any remaining property to the beneficiaries or heirs.

If there is a will, an executor will be named and if there is no will, an “administrator” will be appointed by the court as the personal representative to manage the probate process from start to finish, all under the probate court’s supervision. Both executors and administrators have the same role, but different titles. In California, it can take between 9 and 18 months, or even longer, to complete a probate case.

Do you need professional legal assistance with a probate case? If so, contact Nguyen Law Group. We are available 7 days a week!