The Los Angeles County Probate court handles the legal process required after someone passes away in order to distribute their remaining estate to their heirs or beneficiaries. The process typically involves proving the existence of a valid will if there is one, gathering and creating an inventory of the property included in that estate, appraising the property where necessary, paying debts and taxes, and finally distributing the remaining property appropriately.
Los Angeles County Probate Court
In California, probate proceedings are handled in the California Superior Courts. The Los Angeles County Probate Court is a Court of General Jurisdiction that handles matters including but not limited to the following proceedings: Decedents’ estates, Trust proceedings, Guardianship proceedings, Conservatorship proceedings, and Minor’s compromises.
Assets required to go through Los Angeles County Probate Court
The following types of assets are ordinarily required to go through the probate process in Los Angeles upon death:
- Assets that were held in only the deceased’s name
- Half of each asset that was registered with his or her spouse as community property
- That portion of any asset that belonged to the deceased that he or she held as a registered tenant in common with other people
- Any assets, including such things as jewelry, art, furniture or the like, that are not registered
If the total value of the deceased’s assets at the time of death is less than $100,000, probate is not necessary under California law.
Assets typically excluded from Probate
Again, not all property is subject to probate in Los Angeles. The following assets can be transferred while avoiding probate altogether:
- Assets that are held in joint tenancy
- Assets that are held in a living trust
- Assets where a beneficiary is named, such as IRA benefits or life insurance policies
- Assets held in a bank or credit union where the deceased was named as a trustee for another person
- Assets that were registered in the person’s name that are “payable on death” or “transfer on death” to another person
- Assets registered with a married couple as community property with the right of survivorship
- All assets that go to a surviving spouse, including any assets the person who died owned separately in his or her name but were left in the will or by intestate succession to the surviving spouse
What Are the steps Required During the Probate Process?
The probate process officially begins with the filing of a petition in a California Superior Court in the county where the deceased was living at the time of his or her death. A hearing will be set by the court approximately thirty (30) days after the filing of the petition.
Handling of Notices
After the initial petition is filed, the notice of hearing must be published three times in the local newspaper. The notice must also be mailed to everyone person named in the will, along with all legal heirs of the deceased. Finally, all named executors, including alternates, must receive notice of the hearing as well.
Proving the Will
If there is a will, proving the will is a necessary step unless it is “self-proving.” Some wills contain specific language at the end of the document, where the witnesses sign, which makes it unnecessary for additional statements or witnesses to prove the validity of the will.
The personal representative for the estate is required to take possession of all assets of the deceased which are subject to probate. If the title on particular assets needs to be transferred into someone else’s name, the administrator or executor will handle that transaction.
Payments to Creditors
Once the executor or administrator has been appointed and access the funds of the estate has been obtained, creditors will be paid first. This includes all bills, as well as funeral expenses. Creditors who claim to have valid debts payable by the estate will submit a claim form to the administrator or credit. If those claims are determined to be valid, they will be paid from the estate.
Conclusion of the Estate
Once all of the necessary steps have been taken, an accounting of the estate will be performed and filed with the court. A petition is then drafted which summarizes the estate and reports all transactions taken on behalf of the estate. The petition generally contains a list of all assets currently held and how they will be distributed. The petition also includes the executor or administrator fees and any fees for an estate attorney, if applicable.
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