Many of us will take part in the probate process for a loved one at some point in our lives. The process can be somewhat technical and complicated. Each state has its own specific laws that set out the steps of the probate process, including how to determine which creditors will be paid, and how remaining property will be distributed among the heirs. Paperwork must be completed and filed with the court by established deadlines, and the legal requirements must be followed to the letter.
All estates valued at more than $20,000 require probate proceedings. Due to the complexity of the process, if you are not familiar with the process, it is wise to consult a California estate planning attorney for assistance. The attorneys at Schomer Law Group are very familiar with the probate process in California and aware of the current laws in that area. Mistakes in handling probate can result in unnecessary and costly delays.
How long does the process actually take?
In California, the probate court handles administration of estates when an individual dies. The probate court is guided by and required to follow the rules of the California Uniform Probate Code. Once it is determined whether there is a will or not and, if so, whether that will is valid, any challenges to the will need to be resolved.
The probate process usually takes approximately six to nine months to complete. It may take longer if there are unusual assets that require special attention. The process can also be extended due to unexpected problems that may arise, such as a will contest. Nevertheless, the process should not take longer than 18 months. The process is always easier when there is a will because the administrator and heirs have already been identified. That means, less time needs to be spent waiting for the court to make those determinations.
Why does it take so long?
Probate can be a lengthy process because there are many steps that must be taken. The administrator must make an accounting of all assets belonging to the deceased. Real estate will need to be appraised to determine the value. All creditors must be notified by placing a Notice of Creditors in the local newspaper for a certain period of time. Beneficiaries or heirs must also be notified. These steps take longer if there is no will because the court must first determine, based on state law, which relatives will inherit and then locate those individuals.
After the creditors have been paid, the remaining property is divided and distributed among the beneficiaries and/or heirs. Once this has been accomplished, the case is discharged and closed out by the probate court. Although having an estate planning attorney is not necessarily required, it is highly recommended to help prevent costly mistakes.