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. During the probate process, there are many documents that must be filed with the court. Now, those documents must be filed electronically. Let our Los Angeles probate lawyers explain what that means.
The Requirement for Electronic Filing of Probate Documents
At present time, nearly all California probate courts require that court documents be filed electronically using the eFiling system. Effective June 5, 2017, the Los Angeles Superior Court has mandated eFiling of probate cases. As such, documents filed in the Probate Division of the Superior Court are required to be filed electronically through an electronic filing service provider. This can be accomplished either through the courts’ service or by using one of several eFiling service providers. However, in many cases, the fees charged by these outside services are more expensive than fees charged by the probate courts.
There are Exceptions to the eFiling Requirement
There are a few exceptions to the mandatory eFiling of probate cases. If you need help determining whether your situation applies, speak to one of our Los Angeles probate lawyers. These exemptions include:
- Original testamentary instruments, such as wills & codicils
- Letters and original trust documents
- Bond or undertaking documents
- Lodged documents
- Trial and hearing exhibits
- Challenges regarding a judicial officer
- Documents filed in civil cases related necessary for probate
The Purpose and Benefits of eFiling
The requirement of eFiling comes on the heels of the Los Angeles Superior Court’s replacement of its antiquated case management system for probate cases with a new, state of the art system. The new technology has made proceedings much more efficient and improved the ability of the probate court to maintain and access probate records. Incorporating eFiling with this new system makes the entire process more efficient and reliable.
Additional Benefits of eFiling in Los Angeles County
In the face of recent budget cuts, the Los Angeles Superior Court closed all probate courtrooms except the Michael D. Antonovich Antelope Valley Courthouse in Lancaster, after the majority of probate operations were relocated to the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. With the availability of eFiling, parties are no longer required to travel to either of these two courthouses just to file probate documents.
If You Don’t Have a Lawyer, Don’t Worry
These mandatory eFiling requirements only apply to Los Angeles probate lawyers. The California Rules of Court and the Code of Civil Procedure provide that self-represented litigants are exempt from the mandatory electronic filing requirement. So, if you do not have an attorney yet, you can still file probate documents in person at the clerk’s office. That does not mean you cannot file them electronically if you so choose. The eFiling instructions that apply to each electronic filing service provider are available on the Court’s website. All documents electronically filed after midnight are considered filed as of the next business day.
The Steps Required for Probate
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.
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 every 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.
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 and Conclusion of the Estate
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.
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. Our Los Angeles probate lawyers can help with all of these steps if needed.
Join us for a free seminar today! If you have questions regarding estate planning, trust contests, or any other trust administration issues, please contact the Schomer Law Group either online or by calling us in Los Angeles at (310) 337-7696, and in Orange County at (562) 346-3209.
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