When an Orange County resident passes away, their estate will typically be administered through the court system so that any estate taxes and creditor claims of can be paid and the remaining assets can be distributed to their heirs. A common question clients ask is how long the probate process will take. The answer will vary depending on many factors, but there is an expedited process in California that you may be able to use. Our Orange County probate attorneys can explain that process to you.
Basic information about the probate process
First, you need to know that your probate estate consists of all the property you own at the time of your death, that is titled only in your name. That means any property you own jointly with someone else will not be included in your probate estate. The same is true for property that names a beneficiary, such as insurance policies and trusts. When it is time for your estate to be probated, an executor will be appointed to handle probate administration for your estate. The executor will be responsible for carrying out a number of duties while being supervised by the probate court. So, when you ask how long does probate take – the answer is very dependent on how complicated your estate property will be.
How long does the process take usually?
Generally speaking, probate in Orange County will take about 7 months to finish. However, it can easily take much longer. Our Orange County probate attorneys can help with the first few steps, which preparing and filing the petition for probate with the Orange County probate court. The will also needs to be submitted to the court, along with any bond waivers or other necessary documents. Notices and publications to potential heirs, creditors, and other interested parties also needed to be sent out. If a bond is necessary, it needs to be filed by the court’s established deadline.
What to expect after the initial filings
The first court hearing will usually be scheduled 6 to 7 weeks after the initial filings. At that hearing, if everything has been properly completed and submitted, an Order for probate will be signed by the judge, who will then issue Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration. At that point, your executor will obtain a tax identification number from the Internal Revenue Service.
The next four months
As our Orange County probate attorneys will explain, California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) must also be notified of the estate administration, along with the California Department of Health Care Services (“Medi-Cal”) and the county assessor. During the next four months, the executor will have several other duties to fulfill, such as insuring property, gathering the assets, selling assets as necessary, clearing up any problems with the will and settling disputes that may have arisen, paying creditors and funeral expenses, paying estate taxes and filing an inventory of the estate assets with the court.
Filing the final petition in probate court
Once the majority of the executor’s duties have been fulfilled, the final petition or final accounting will be prepared and filed 4 months after the Letters were issued by the court. The final court date is typically scheduled for approximately 6-7 weeks after the final petition is filed. If everything is in order, the Court will approve final distributions, after which you may request your final discharge after making payments and obtaining receipts.
California’s summary probate procedure
California’s Probate Code provides for a summary probate procedure, which is an abbreviated probate proceeding that takes less time to complete. Through this process, the estate assets are simply distributed according to the terms of the decedent’s will. This method can be much less expensive and time-consuming. California’s summary probate procedures are available for the following types of estates:
- the aggregate value of personal property does not exceed $100,000
- value of real estate less than $20,000
- value of real estate less than $100,000
- the asset (regardless of type) passes directly to the surviving spouse
Other methods of transfer
The concept of “right of survivorship” applies when two individuals hold title to property in “joint tenancy” the surviving owner will automatically have full ownership upon the death of the other. Often, community property is held with right of survivorship to the surviving spouse, if it is designated as such.
There is also a statute in California that includes certain Nonprobate Transfer Rules, which include transfers by beneficiary and Transfer on Death (TOD) and Pay on Death (POD) securities. Finally, assets that are held in trust also avoid the probate process. With a trust agreement, the property is transferred to the name of the trust at the time the trust is established.
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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