Probate is a court case. The purpose of a probate case is to collect assets, pay debts and distribute the property to heirs or beneficiaries. The court appoints a personal representative to perform these duties under the supervision of the court. The entire case can take between 9 months to 1 ½ years.
A probate case starts when a Petition for Probate is filed with a court. Usually the probate case follows these steps, according the California Courts website:
The probate clerk sets a hearing date.
The petitioner must give notice of the hearing to anyone who may have the right to get some part of the estate, plus the surviving family members even if there is a will and they are not named in it. Any person who is interested in the court case may file a Request for Special Notice which means that they must receive a copy of paperwork filed by the person who is chosen to manage the estate.
The petitioner CANNOT mail the notice. It must be mailed by any other adult who is not a party to the case.
The petitioner must arrange for notice to be published in a newspaper of general circulation.
A court probate examiner reviews the case before the hearing to see if it was done correctly.
Once all the paperwork has been reviewed by the examiner and corrected, if necessary, the judge decides who to appoint to be in charge as the personal representative of the estate (also called the “administrator” or “executor”).
The personal representative gathers up the assets and prepares an Inventory and Appraisal to be filed. The personal representative usually will also need to contact a probate referee to value the non-monetary assets.
The personal representative provides formal notice to creditors with the Notice of Administration to Creditors and pays the debts.
A final personal income tax return is prepared for the person who died.
The probate court figures out who gets what property.
A Report of Sale and Petition for Order Confirming Sale of Real Property is filed with the court so that sales of real property are confirmed by the court.
If the estate earned any money (such as interest or profit in a sale), the personal representative will have to submit a final estate tax return.
The personal representative reports to the court on how the estate was handled. This report is a final plan and accounting. The report is scheduled for hearing so the judge can review how the personal representative handled everything. The judge needs to be satisfied that everything has been properly taken care of.
After filing with the court any required final receipts to show that everyone received their property from the estate, the court discharges the personal representative from his or her duties.
I charge a flat fee for many probate cases. The fee is not due until the end of the probate case, and is paid out of the estate's assets. Call or text 661-244-1222 or email me from the contact page to find out more about my probate services. Office hours are 9-4, Monday through Friday.