Understanding the California probate process

When people die, their estate often enters into the probate process to pay off lingering debts and divide the property.

When people pass away, they may leave behind an estate made up of property and assets that they have accumulated throughout their lifetime. In a last will and testament, people often name beneficiaries to the estate and designate who they would like to have what. Before the beneficiaries can get the items that have been passed down to them, however, the estate often goes through the probate process.

Probate defined

The probate process is mandatory in many cases where a person has died, and has left behind an estate. During this process, the deceased's last will and testament is evaluated and deemed valid. Any financial responsibilities the deceased left behind is then taken out of the estate. For example, if the estate owner had credit card expenses or loan payments that carried on after his or her death, an estate sale may be held to cover those expenses, or the debts would be taken out of the estate's assets. Once the finances are in order, the transfer of property to the beneficiaries of the will is carried out.

Estate administrator

The decedent may have named a family member or friend as the estate administrator, or executor of the estate, in the last will and testament. If one was not named, the court may appoint a third-party administrator to carry out these duties. The administrator is ultimately in charge of ensuring the matters involving the estate are carried out properly. He or she is responsible for overseeing the finances as well as contacting the beneficiaries named in the will.

The probate process

Once a person passes away, the keeper of the will has 30 days to deliver the document to the probate court clerk's office, as well as to the executor of the estate. A petition for probate is filed and a hearing date is scheduled. Anyone who is named in the estate, including any surviving family members, are given notice of the hearing. Furthermore, the notice must be published in a local newspaper. After all the paperwork and documentation is in place, the court probate examiner ensures that everything is in order. The executor then pays off the debts of the estate and distribute the property as directed.

Having an advocate by your side

Going through the probate process can be overwhelming, especially when you are overcoming the death of a friend or loved one. It may be helpful to have someone by your side to assist in the decision-making process. An attorney may help to ensure you fill out the right paperwork and meet crucial deadlines to resolve the issues at hand.