Do you need a California probate?
Probate is generally required in California when a person who has passed away owned California property worth more than $150,000. However, if the property exceeds $150,000 you may not have to open a probate case depending on the type of ownership. For example, property owned jointly or with a spouse may not require a probate in California.
If the property is worth less than $150,000 you may be able to use small estate legal procedures and avoid probate.
The first step in probate is determining whether you need to file a probate petition with a court. I can help you decide if that is necessary.
I'm happy to answer your questions (no obligation!) about probate in California. Call or text me at (661) 244-1222, or use my contact page to email me your question.
Starting Probate in California
Every probate case begins by filing a "Petition for Probate" with the correct California court. All courts in California require that Judicial Council Form DE-111 (click here) be used when filing your Petition for Probate. Several other forms and attachments are generally required to be attached to your Petition for Probate. Call or text 661-244-1222 or email me from the contact page and we can determine whether a probate petition is required in your situation. Office hours are 9-4, Monday through Friday.
What is Probate? The Probate Process under California Probate Law.
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 nonmonetary 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.
Probate is required in California when a person who has passed away owned property worth more than $150,000. Even if the property exceeds $150,000 you may not have to open a probate case depending on the type of title ownership. If the property is worth less than $150,000 you may be able to use small estate legal procedures and avoid probate.
I charge flat fees for California probates. The fee is generally 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.
Did you start your probate case and now you'd like some help with a certain portion of it? I may be able to help. Call or text 661-244-1222 or email me from the contact page and we can discuss your needs. Office hours are 9-4, Monday through Friday.
In a traditional California probate a Personal Representative has many duties under probate law and is assisted by an attorney in performing those duties. There are times when a Personal Representative wishes to delegate those duties as much as possible. If you choose a full probate your tasks will be minimized as much as possible. I charge the California statutory rate for a full probate. Call or text 661-244-1222 or email me from the contact page to discuss if this is right for you. Office hours are 9-4, Monday through Friday.
Do You Need "Letters"?
Has a bank representative told you that you need “Letters” in order to access a decedent's bank account?
Contact me to find out if that is really necessary. Letters are only issued by a probate judge in formal probates. You may be able to access the account without a formal probate or Letters.
In a formal probate the personal representative has the authority to start gathering the assets once the Letters are issued. Most banks, financial companies and other institutions require the personal representative to show or submit Letters in order to access accounts in a formal probate.
There are two names for letters. “Letters Testamentary” are issued when the decedent had a will and named an executor. “Letters of Administration” are issued when the decedent did not have a will.
In both cases, the Letters are a legal document obtained from a probate court after a petition for probate is examined by a judge. As long as your petition is in order, it usually takes several weeks to receive the Letters after your petition is filed.