The death of a loved one is a difficult time, and often requires navigating complex legal processes like probate. In California, probating a will – the court-supervised process of administering a deceased person's estate – can be a complex process, in which the executor named in the will plays a vital role. If you are charged with the duty of settling a relative’s estate, there are multiple functions and responsibilities involved.

Here are the basic phases of the California probate process:

  1. Signing and filing the petition — The first step is filing a petition for probate with the California Superior Court in the county where the deceased resided. This petition, typically filled out by the executor named in the will, formally requests the court's oversight and approval of the will's validity.

  2. First court date — Once filed, a hearing date is set. This initial court appearance involves presenting the will, proving its authenticity, and obtaining official recognition as the executor.

  3. Four-month creditors' period — Following the hearing, California law mandates a four-month waiting period. This allows creditors of the estate time to file claims against the deceased's assets before the estate's assets are distributed. The executor is responsible for notifying potential creditors and meticulously documenting any claims received.

  4. Drafting the final report and inventory — During this period, the executor gathers and inventories all estate assets and liabilities. This includes property, bank accounts, and any debts owed by the deceased. A detailed final report is then drafted, outlining the estate's value, expenses incurred during administration (like court fees and attorney costs), and how remaining assets will be distributed according to the will.

  5. Final court date — A final court hearing is held to review the final report and obtain court approval for the distribution of assets to beneficiaries as outlined in the will. Any remaining creditor claims are addressed, and the court formally closes the probate case.

  6. Distributions — Once the court grants final approval, the executor can finally distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. This involves ensuring proper documentation and adherence to any tax implications associated with the inheritance.

Probate law in California can be intricate, and even minor missteps can lead to delays, complications, and even legal challenges. In the worst-case scenario, disgruntled family members or beneficiaries may contest the will's validity. An experienced California probate attorney provides invaluable guidance throughout the process. They ensure compliance with complex legal requirements, navigate potential disputes and represent the executor effectively in court.

At Favaro, Lavezzo, Gill, Caretti & Heppell, PC in Vallejo and Fairfield-Suisun, our lawyers are qualified to handle any matter that involves Probate Code in California. If you have questions about our services, call our law firm at 707-674-6057 or contact us online.