California Probate Timeline: How Long Does The Process Take?
After a loved one passes away, someone (typically family members or friends) must file for probate with the California court to distribute any assets in the decedent’s name. The county where you open up probate is determined by where the deceased person resided at the time of their death.
Probate is a complicated process, and can be overwhelming, especially while you are dealing with the death of a loved one. Our probate attorneys from Klosek Law Offices are here to make the process as seamless as possible and to provide you with expert guidance along the way.
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How Long Does Probate Take In California?
In California, the probate process starts when the executor lodges the will at the local court (if there is a Will). If there is no Will, then someone has died “intestate” and someone has to petition the court to be appointed the administrator.
The executor or administrator collects the decedent’s assets and determines the debts and claims that have to be paid. During the course of administration tax liabilities are accounted for, real estate is sold if necessary, and after all creditors have been addressed, then the estate is in a position to close.
There are typically two(2) hearing dates: the first hearing is to appoint an administrator, so actions can be taken on behalf of the estate, and a second hearing, to distribute the estate.
The length of time for probate depends on various factors, including the number of beneficiaries or heirs, the size of the estate, taxes and debts to pay, and if there are any contested issues. In most cases, a probate process takes about a year to complete. However, in cases of lawsuits and contested issues, the process may take up to several years. However, delays caused by covid have resulted in straightforward probate cases taking longer than a year.
Trusted Probate Attorney in California
Having a probate lawyer by your side can simplify the procedure. The team at Klosek Law provides all types of legal support, including planning the estate, providing advice on powers of attorney, drawing up a trust or will, or representing an executor or administrator.
We have the experience and knowledge to deal with the most complex California probate cases, so trust us to handle your case with ease while you take care of your family.
Our lead attorney can help you with:
- Filing federal and state tax returns (by providing a recommendation to a trusted CPA who specializes in probates)
- Acquiring appraisals for the deceased’s property by working with the probate referee
- Determining estate assets and what needs to be valued by the probate referee
- Working with creditors, including notifying them of the probate and helping negotiate their demands for payment
- Helping with the sale of real property, if any, including sending out Notices of Proposed Action
Probate Process Timeline
The probate process consists of several steps:
- Filing a petition for probate (to get a hearing date to appoint an administrator)
- Informing the heirs of the hearing (so that everyone receives proper notice and has a chance to voice their opinion)
- Preparing an inventory of the assets (reviewing the decedent’s assets to see what is part of the estate)
- Paying the debts and taxes (working with creditors to resolve any claims against the estate)
- Distribution (distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries, and withholding a reserve if any future anticipated expenses)
File Petition for Probate. The first step is filing a petition to open probate. The official administrator or executor needs to fill out a form and file it with the court (in the county where the decedent resided). The executor also needs to provide a copy of the death certificate and the original will.
Provide Notice by Mail and Newspaper Publication. Next, the executor must inform the creditors and heirs of the deceased. Creditors receive notice through a newspaper publication. Believe it or not, some people still read the newspaper, and creditors and collection agencies routinely read the newspapers for probate notices. The heirs receive notice by receiving a copy of the petition along with a document telling them when the hearing date to appoint the administrator is.
Provide Notice to Creditors. Assuming the court appoints the administrator and recognizes a Will (if any), the creditors then have a limited period to submit a claim against the California estate. The administrator is required to provide notice to all known creditors, and the creditors then have 4 months from the date someone receives letters of administration to formally file a creditor’s claim with the court.
Prepare Inventory & Appraisal (I&A). The next step is completing an inventory of all the decedent’s assets and determining their value. Depending on the assets and the property size, the process can take several weeks. The administrator has 4 months from the date of their appointment to file an inventory & appraisal report with the court.
Sell Real Estate. During the administration phase, the executor can sell real property, vehicles and liquidate the remaining assets of the decedent. If there is real estate that needs to be sold, certain procedures need to be followed. One probate rule involves sending all beneficiaries a “Notice of Proposed Action,” once a buyer has been located for the decedent’s property. This Notice provides the beneficiaries with details of the proposed sale, including the sales price, the broker’s commission, and who is paying for escrow and closing costs. Typically, beneficiaries have 15 days to object to the terms of the sale. However, if they are in agreement with the proposed sale, they can sign consents and the 15-day waiting period can be waived.
Typically, as soon as there is an accepted offer, realtors send the complete contract to our office, and our office then prepares and mails out the “Notice of Proposed Action” to all the relevant parties. Assuming no objections (silence is tacit consent) and assuming no changes in the material terms – the executor can close escrow as usual. ALL the normal items get paid through escrow including commissions and the NET proceeds are payable to the estate. The net proceeds MUST be deposited into an interest-bearing estate account.
Pay Creditors. After the four month creditor claim expires, the executor can start paying the formal claims that have been filed with the court and/or rejecting claims that are not valid. We ask our clients to provide our firm with any and all bills or statements that they received either before or after they were appointed the administrator. We will take the information clients provide us and mail each creditor what’s called a “Notice to Creditors.” Once we mail this notice out, creditors have to take action if they want to get paid. There is a 4-month period that starts running when letters of administration are issued to the administrator, and creditors have to file claims with the court during that 4-month period. As administrator, you also can decide that a debt is valid and pay the creditor before the 4-month period expires. Certain debts such as a home mortgage are secured, so the home lender will get paid out of escrow when the house is sold and the 4-month period does not necessarily apply to them. In addition, you also have the option of negotiating with the creditors. Credit card companies especially are known to take a discount on money they are owed.
Prepare an Accounting. Some cases require the executor to present an accounting, which may lengthen the process. Typically, when beneficiaries are all in agreement an accounting is not necessary and can be waived. Providing bank statements to beneficiaries is usually sufficient to keep them informed. However, if an accounting is necessary, we will recommend you to an accountant that is familiar with probate court accountings.
Petition for Final Distribution. After all taxes and debts are paid, and the assets have been properly marshalled and collected, it is time to distribute the remaining assets to the heirs based on the will (if any) or if there is no Will, under what’s called the intestate laws of succession. The administrator submits a report to the court, where the administrator summarizes all the actions that were taken during the probate.
Duration of Probate. Even if the probate process runs smoothly, it may take a year or longer to complete. Without a probate attorney, it will be more difficult for the executor to deal with the necessary tasks and responsibilities. A larger estate or a complex case can be in probate for over a year. It can become lengthier and more complicated if there is any litigation involved.
Schedule A Free Consultation And Ease The Strain Of Probate
At Klosek Law Offices, we have a team of knowledgeable and experienced probate attorneys who can take the pressure off you and handle the probate process with ease and expertise. Klosek Law Offices is your destination for smooth and fast probate procedures.
Our process starts with a free consultation where you can explain the problems you are facing. We will review your situation, answer your questions, and prepare the paperwork necessary to start the probate process.
Contact one of our probate attorneys in California to schedule a consultation, and we’ll take care of the rest.
Find A Probate Attorney Near Me
Klosek Law Offices has several locations in California. You can schedule an appointment at the law office nearest you for your convenience.
It will be comforting for you and your family to rely on the knowledge and reputation of Klosek Law Offices to handle legal issues, debts, taxes, claims, and disputes among heirs that may arise.
Our California probate attorneys are standing by to provide you with the legal services you can trust and depend on. Call today.