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Meinzer Law Firm, PC

Understanding the California probate process

If you are currently grieving the loss of a loved one, you will quickly realize that as well as dealing with the emotional aspects of your loss, you will need to deal with the logistical proceedings that are necessary after a person's death. If you have been appointed as the personal representative of the estate, you have the responsibility to oversee the probate process.

The probate process is how all assets that were in the possession of the deceased person at the time of their debt are documented and distributed. If the deceased person left a valid will, this will be used to distribute assets to loved ones. The following is an overview of the key steps in the California probate process.

Filing the petition

The personal representative must first file a petition to initiate probate proceedings with the California Superior Court. This should be done in the county in which the deceased person resided at the time of death. The court will then schedule a hearing within 30 days.

Handling of notices

The details about the hearing must be published in local newspapers at least three times. All those named in the will, as well as all possible creditors, must also be notified.

Proving the will

Unless the will is self-proving or contains an affidavit, the will must be proven. At this point, heirs may challenge the will if they believe it is invalid.

Paying debts

All assets need to be identified and used to pay off all debts that are owed. The personal representative must also ensure that the funds held within the estate are used to pay all federal, state and estate taxes that are owed.

Distributing assets

After the assets held within the estate have been used to pay off all debts, the remaining assets can be distributed to beneficiaries. This must be done according to the instructions of the will. The estate will then be closed, and reports regarding actions taken with the estate will be filed with the court.

If you have been appointed as a personal representative of an estate, make sure that you have a full understanding of your role and that you are willing to carry out your duties.

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