California Probate Administration

Insight on Probate Administration from an Oakland Attorney

Probate is the formal court process of passing the assets of a deceased person to his or her heirs. The probate process begins when a person files a petition in court for the authority to administer the deceased person's estate.

After the petition is filed, the person who filed the petition notifies the heirs of the court hearing date for an appointment. The decedent's creditors are also notified. The heirs and the creditors may then appear in court on the hearing date to contest the appointment if they desire. If no one contests, the appointment is usually granted. The person appointed is then referred to as the "personal representative" of the deceased person's estate.

The personal representative makes an inventory of the estate's assets, determines and settles financial obligations, and deals with other matters necessary to close the estate.

Distribution of the estate doesn't happen until the court approves a final accounting. The distribution must be made in accordance with the deceased person's will or according to California law if the deceased person failed to leave a will.

Call (510) 328-4005 to talk to an Oakland probate administration lawyer today!

Are All Estates Probated?

Estates larger than $150,000 have to go through probate in California. One of the purposes in establishing a revocable living trust is to move assets from the probate estate into the trust. Trust assets do not have to be probated and thus can be distributed to heirs 100% according to the deceased's wishes.

How Is the Executor Chosen?

In general, an executor is nominated in the will. If there is no will, the personal representative is called the "administrator." It is not always possible or practical for the nominated person to take on the role and the court will decide at a hearing who should take on the responsibilities. Closest relatives will be given priority, but anyone can be named the administrator of the estate. When there is a complex or a large estate, the lawyer for the executor or administrator will handle many of the duties. This helps avoid mistakes and prevent challenges of impropriety by other beneficiaries.

Some of the duties of an executor or administrator include:

  • Determining the assets of the estate and providing an inventory to the court.
  • Asset management - to maintain value until distributed to beneficiaries
  • Paying creditors - verifying claims, closing out accounts and settling bills.
  • Locating heirs and notifying them of their status.
  • Anticipating and filing tax forms.
  • Filing a final accounting with the court so that assets can be distributed to heirs.
  • Each of these responsibilities can have multiple steps and complications.

How Long Does Probate Take?

In California, there are four months allowed for creditors to file claims with the court. After this, probate can take an additional four to eight months (or more). There are many reasons for delays, including court scheduling and how busy they are, problems that arise in any of the executor's or administrator's duties and (occasionally) objections raised by family members, creditors, and others such as will contests. For these reasons, the involvement of an attorney is important. Your attorney will know how to respond to any difficulties, such as motions that have to be filed, and how best to move the process forward expediently.

If you have additional questions about how the probate process works and would like to discuss them, please contact me. I am an Alameda County probate administration lawyer with over 20 years of experience!

Contact the Law Office of Steven M. Simrin

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