Probate in California is the legal process through which a deceased person’s estate is settled, debts are paid, and assets are distributed to beneficiaries or heirs. Here’s a general summary of the process.

  1. Filing the Petition: The probate process begins with the filing of a petition in the Superior Court of the county where the deceased person lived. If the decedent had a will, the original will must be filed with the petition for probate. This petition requests the court to appoint a personal representative, often referred to as an executor or administrator, to manage the estate.
  2. Notifying Creditors and Beneficiaries: After the petition is filed, notice must be given to all interested parties, including creditors and beneficiaries named in the will or heirs at law if there’s no will. Creditors are given an opportunity to file claims against the estate.
  3. Inventory and Appraisal: The personal representative is responsible for creating an inventory of the deceased person’s assets and obtaining appraisals when necessary. This inventory is submitted to the court for approval.
  4. Debts and Taxes: The personal representative is also responsible for identifying and paying the deceased person’s debts and taxes from the estate’s assets. This may include outstanding bills, funeral expenses, and any estate or income taxes owed.
  5. Distribution of Assets: Once debts, taxes, and expenses are paid, the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries or heirs according to the terms of the will or California intestate succession laws if there’s no will.
  6. Final Accounting and Closing: The personal representative must prepare a final accounting of the estate’s transactions and submit it to the court for approval. Once approved, the court issues an order for the distribution of the remaining assets and officially closes the probate case, releasing the Personal Representative from their duties.

It’s important to note that probate can be a lengthy and expensive process, often involving court fees, attorney fees, and other costs. Many people choose to create an estate plan including a trust, to avoid the probate process to minimize the impact on their estate of extra costs, time, and stress to their family.

If you, a friend, or family member need help establishing or updating an estate plan, please reach out to our Intake Department at 760-448-2220 or at We have offices in San Diego County (Carlsbad) and Orange County (Laguna Niguel), but we assist can families throughout California as well.

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