When an individual in California passes away, many families, loved ones, or other beneficiaries are often left with the burden of dealing with the California probate process. The legal procedure in which a beneficiary has the burden of demonstrating the validity of a decedent’s Will in court is called probate. Probate court in California handles the legal proceedings for decedents (people who have passed away) as well as other people who are unable to act on their own behalf such as guardianships and conservatorships.

After petitioning the court, and once the court has determined that a particular Will is authentic, the court will then allow the individual designated as the Executor to implement and facilitate the wishes of the decedent. Once the process of probating the Will has begun, the decedent’s assets can be properly and legally transferred to the appropriate beneficiaries. In the event that there is no Will made at the time of a person’s death, what is known as an administration proceeding will need to be held. The probate process is similar in both time and costs, but the main difference is that the gifts are transferred based on California guidelines of succession rather than the wishes of the decedent.

The Beginning of the Probate Process

In order to begin the probate process, the individual identified as the Executor of the Will or the assigned attorney representing the estate need to begin the process with the proper probate court. In order to do this, a form known as a Petition for Probate must be filed. Once the document and required attachments have been filed, the court will then examine the Will and ultimately determine if the document is in fact legitimate and the proposed Executor has the capacity to serve. The court schedules a hearing about 4-8 weeks after filing the Petition to make these determinations.

Once the court has determined that the Will is valid, the court will give the Executor a document known as Letters of Administration or Letters of Testamentary. These legal documents allow the Executor to allocate the decedent’s assets to the appropriate beneficiaries after other requirements in the case have been met. These can include formal appraisals, notifications and more. Once this process takes place, any debts and taxes owed will also be allocated. It is important to note that the distribution is in fact one of the last processes in the proceeding. In California it is usually done after at least 2 hearings and will finalize in no less than 7 months.

The Process of Probate When It Involves More Than One State

In the event that a decedent owned property in more than one state, additional probate proceedings may be required in the states in which those assets are located. The Executor may then need to hire an attorney or professional document preparation service in the state of the decedent’s primary residence as well as in each additional state the other properties are located in. This however would depend on the value of the property and the applicable laws in that state. In California, there are several probate processes and they will vary in time and cost and are dependent on the total value of the estate in California.

In the Event That No Will Was Made

When a person has passed away without creating a Will, that person’s property will need to go through the probate process as well. Instead of allowing an Executor to allocate the decedent’s estate, the court will name an Estate Administrator and direct him or her on how to facilitate and then distribute the estate.

Laws and regulations governing how properties and assets are allocated in the event that an individual dies without drafting a Will can vary from State to State. Generally, if an individual dies without making a Will and he or she lives in what is known as a community property state, the court will allocate that individual’s estate to his or her spouse. There is also a probate court proceeding for this, but it is simpler and shorter to facilitate the transfer of assets.  Again, in California the process to probate depends on many different factors and understanding which one you qualify for can save time, money and other resources during the process.

Probate Document Preparation Services

One way to get through a probate process in California is to utilize the experience of a Probate Legal Document Assistant. In California Legal Document Assistants are authorized to prepare, file and help with the probate court process. The documents for probate court are uniform so using a document preparation service for your probate can save a considerable amount of money. In cases that will be un-contested and have little variation a Legal Document Assistant may be a more affordable option. Legal Document Assistants who help with probate are familiar with the document and filing requirements and can help you in many cases. If you are considering opening a probate case in California, you may also want to consider talking to a Legal Document Assistant who handles probate and see how they can help you. You can learn more about the probate services Just Document Preparation offers here: Probate Document Preparation.