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Initial Steps of the Probate Process in California

Probate is a court-supervised process that serves to authenticate a deceased person’s last will and testament, or distribution of assets when no will was created. The process will include attempting to locate and determine the value of the deceased person’s assets, making final payments on taxes and bills, as well as making appropriate distributions of the person’s estate to the rightful beneficiaries.

Determining When Probate is Required in California

Every state has its own laws regarding what is needed to probate a person’s estate. Generally, these laws can be found in the state’s probate codes or laws involving intestate succession. In California, the provisions for probate can be found under the Probate Code.

In the event that no will is left, the probate process will still be required in order to finalize the deceased person’s final bills and to also distribute his or her estate. The subsequent steps are usually the same without regard to whether there is an existing will or not, although this will depend on the state’s probate rules and regulations.

Last Will Admittance, Authentication & Acceptance

Many states require any person who is in control of a deceased person’s last will to submit the will with a probate court shortly after the person’s passing. Usually, petitioner filing the will is also required to submit a copy of the deceased’s death certificate.

Once the documents have been submitted, the court will hold a hearing. The hearing will provide all interested parties the opportunity to challenge the document that is being submitted for probate. For the most part, parties usually object to the will when there are two or more wills left behind by the deceased or if there is a concern with the party appointed as the estate’s executor.

In order to determine a will’s validity, the probate court judge will rely on witnesses. A majority of wills will include affidavits, where the affidavit is signed by witnesses and the will’s creator at the same time. When there is no affidavit, witnesses may need to testify in probate court that they were present at the time of the will’s signing.

Appointment of the Estate’s Executor

An executor, sometimes referred to as an administrator or personal representative of the estate will supervise the estate’s probate process. In many cases, the decedent will appoint a desired executor in his or her will. When none is named, the probate court will appoint a person, usually the next of kin. This person is usually the surviving partner, spouse, or adult child. However, the person appointed by the court is not obligated to serve as executor and can decline. Once the executor has been appointed, he or she will be allowed to enter into agreements as a representative of the estate.

While this is just the initial steps of the case, there is room for error and potential to delay or complicate the process. In California, these initial steps can take as much as 60 days or more, and it should be noted that the value of the estate will determine the specific probate process and each have their own time frame. Standard probates in California take at least 8 months, but many times much longer.

Consult the Legal Support of an Experienced Probate Attorney

Regrettably, the probate process is oftentimes difficult, especially when a will is being challenged. If you or someone you know is facing a probate process, consider seeking the legal support of a skilled probate attorney.

Attorney Scot Moga has many years of experience in the probate field as has helped many clients through the difficult process. Consider contacting the firm to schedule a free initial consultation today.

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