A Guide To California's Probate Process

Most estates in California that do not have assets placed in a trust — even those that are covered by a valid will — must move through the state's probate process before they can be settled. At The Dayton Law Firm, P.C., our attorneys are experienced in estate administration and can advise you if a loved one's estate must be probated.

An Overview Of The Probate Process

Understanding how the probate process works is key to determining the best path for your family. In many probate cases, these are some of the steps you will need to take:

  1. The probate court will name an executor — either someone designated in a will or a personal representative that the court appoints to the role.
  2. The executor files a petition for a probate hearing with the California Superior Court in the county where the deceased resided.
  3. Notice of the probate hearing is published in the local newspaper, giving notice to creditors.
  4. The executor must provide a listing of the estate's assets for the court.
  5. Creditors holding a debt against the estate must be paid out of the estate's assets, and all applicable state and federal estate taxes must also be paid.
  6. When the executor has completed the above steps, he or she can file a petition that reports all actions taken on the estate's behalf.
  7. Once the estate is officially closed by the court, the executor may distribute the remaining assets to heirs and pay any fees that remain.

A Small Estate Option: Summary Probate

For small estates settled in California, using the summary probate process may be a streamlined option if the estate:

  • Has assets worth less than a total of $150,000
  • Has no real estate holdings
  • Was held by an unmarried person

Summary probate can be quicker and more efficient for some small estates. However, it is possible even with small estates to have additional issues, including family estate disputes that may require the intervention of a skilled probate lawyer.

Do You Have Probate Questions? We Can Provide Answers.

Our firm takes the guesswork out of estate administration. For a free case evaluation, call our San Jose office at 408-437-7570 or use our online intake form.