But even if you’ve planned your estate, let’s look at how an estate is probated (in California) in case you're faced with a relative who hasn’t done his/her planning.
In California the probate process begins in the Probate Court of each county. California law requires that the decedent’s Will be filed with the Probate Court Clerk in the county where the decedent resided. The Will must be filed within 30 days after death even if there won't be a probate (for example, because all of the assets were transferred to a living trust or because there were insufficient assets to require a probate)
If there are no assets to probate, that's the end of the formal court process. But if it is necessary to proceed, then the next step is to file a "Petition to Probate Decedent's Estate". The Petition is filed on a Court form and requires the Petitioner (the person who is filing the Petition) to fill in certain specific information. For example, the Petitioner must indicate if [s]he is asking to be appointed as the Personal Representative or to give the name of the person to be appointed.
The Petition asks for a rough "guesstimate" of the value of the assets being probated. It asks for the names and addresses of all of the individuals who are named in the Decedent's Will (if [s]he had one) and also the names and addresses of all people who are legally entitled to inherit from the Decedent under the laws of intestate succession.
At the same time that the Petition is filed with the County Probate Court, a Notice of Petition is prepared and sent to each person whose name and address was listed in the Petition. A copy of the Notice is also published in a local newspaper. The Court schedules a hearing date for the Petition and collects a Filing Fee (in 2012 the filing fee is $435).
The Probate Code states that the Petition for Probate is to be heard not less than 30 days nor more than 45 days after the date on which the Petition is filed. As a practical matter in the larger California counties it is not unusual to have a hearing date scheduled 60 or 75 days after the filing date.
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Law Office of Janet Brewer
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The Law Office of Janet L. Brewer provides comprehensive planning in the areas of Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Powers of Attorney, International Estate Planning, Estate Planning for Non-Residents, Probate & Trust Administration, Charitable Planning, Special Needs Planning & Trusts, Estate Tax Planning, Business Succession Planning and Asset Protection for Business Owners and Professionals. Janet has offices in Palo Alto, CA and serves the entire surrounding area, including Palo Alto, Los Altos Hills, Los Altos, Portola Valley, Woodside, Atherton, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Silicon Valley.
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Janet L. Brewer is Certified as a Specialist in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. Information on this website, including any testimonial or endorsement, does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter.