A California probate decedent’s estate court proceeding (or “probate”) is required to transfer the assets of a decedent if the assets at issue exceed a certain value amount.
Whether the decedent had a will or not is irrelevant. A probate is required either way if the amount of assets requires it.
IAEA Streamlines Probate Process (a Little)
A California probate is a restrictive, cumbersome, and lengthy process. The Independent Administration of Estates Act (or IAEA) is designed to streamline the process, at least a little.
(This IAEA is different than the IAEA that you may hear about in the news periodically. That one is the International Atomic Energy Agency.)
This IAEA removes the requirement that you as the executor or administrator in charge of the probate must obtain court approval prior to taking certain actions. Instead, you may be required only to mail and file a Notice of Proposed Action prior to taking those certain actions.
There are 2 levels of IAEA authority—full authority and limited authority.
Full IAEA Authority
Full IAEA authority provides you as the executor or administrator with authority to do almost anything without prior court approval. Only the following exceptions require prior court approval:
- Paying yourself executor or administrator fees from the probate estate assets;
- Paying fees to your attorney from the probate estate assets;
- An account petition pertaining to your acts as executor or administrator of the probate;
- Distributing probate estate assets to beneficiaries and being discharged as executor or administrator (with some exceptions);
- Plus generally 6 types of acts of self dealing involving probate estate assets paying, trading assets with, or otherwise benefiting you as executor or administrator or your attorney.
An executor or administrator with full IAEA authority may take more actions without prior court approval than with limited IAEA authority.
Limited IAEA Authority
Limited IAEA authority provides you as the executor or administrator with a few additional limitations. With limited IAEA authority you also need to obtain prior court approval of the following:
- Selling probate estate real property;
- Exchanging probate estate real property;
- Granting an option to purchase probate estate real property; and
- Borrowing money with the loan secured by an encumbrance on probate estate real property.
Those actions that require prior court approval with full IAEA authority also require court approval with limited IAEA authority.
Notice of Proposed Action Instead of Prior Court Approval
For all other actions, prior court approval is normally not required. Instead you as the executor or administrator mail a Notice of Proposed Action to all interested parties.
You must state a specific date on or after which you will take the proposed action. That date must be at least 15 days after mailing the Notice of Proposed Action.
You must file the Notice of Proposed Action with the court.
Then if none of those parties objects to the action described in the Notice of Proposed Action within the required time period, they cannot object to it later. That enables you as the executor or administrator to take the proposed action safely.
No Prior Court Approval or Notice of Proposed Action
Finally, you can take many actions without prior court approval and without mailing and filing a Notice of Proposed Action. This is true whether you as the executor have full or limited IAEA authority.
Obtaining IAEA Authority
IAEA authority is not automatic. You must specifically request full or limited IAEA authority to obtain it.
Normally, you do this through the Petition for Probate filed with the court. The Petition for Probate is the first pleading (or document) filed with the court. Through it you also request that the court appoint you as executor or administrator.
The decedent can prevent the executor or administrator from obtaining IAEA authority by expressly prohibiting it in his will. Thus obtaining IAEA authority is possible in all probates of decedents who did not have a will. It is also possible in all probates of decedents who had a will that does not expressly prohibit IAEA authority. It is very rare that a decedent’s will expressly prohibits IAEA authority.
Get Help from an Experienced Probate Attorney
The IAEA statutes are complicated. Understanding how to use them efficiently requires experience.
Let’s say that as an executor or administrator of a probate with limited IAEA authority, you sell probate estate real property without obtaining prior court approval. Perhaps you had the mistaken belief that you didn’t need that prior court approval. Still you could get into trouble with the court for doing that.
Hiring an attorney experienced with probates can help you avoid this. The guidance of an attorney experienced with probate court cases is also invaluable for attaining your goals in these cases.
At Meinzer Law Firm, P.C., we have over 20 years of experience helping clients achieve their goals in probate cases. Contact Meinzer Law Firm, P.C., in Torrance to assist you with your California probate court case.