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Probate and Estate Administration

Probate and Estate Administration

If a person passes away without an estate plan, the State of California has created a default estate plan for everyone.  This estate plan can aptly be called “Probate.”  Probate in California is the court monitored administration of a person’s estate that is required when a loved one passes away without a will or trust, or only a will (but no trust).  The laws governing the probate process can be found in the California Probate Code. The California Probate Code contains more than one thousand pages comprised of sections 1 through 21700.  The probate process can be complicated, highly technical, and time-consuming, often lasting between 9 and 15 months.  


When someone dies with a will (but without a Living Trust) the decedent’s estate must still go through the probate process. Probate is a court supervised legal process whereby a will is offered to the court as the true final testamentary document of the decedent. The court validates the will and appoints an executor who gather the assets and distributes the estate.   Probate is a four-step process that provides a forum to:

  1. Validate a will and appoint a personal representative to act on behalf of the estate,

  2. Address outstanding debts or taxes, and allow anyone with a valid claim against the estate to present their claim,

  3. Marshall assets and collects money owed to the decedent,

  4. Distribute the estate to the rightful heir(s).


How the Probate Process Works


     Even where your loved one passed away with a straightforward will, the probate process in California can be fairly time consuming. The process is complicated, so an executor should consult an attorney experienced in probate procedure.  In short, the person named as the executor in the will should offer the will for probate through the formal petition process.   A court date will be set with enough time (approximately 1.5 – 2 months) to publish the probate and to allow any other persons with wills to file competing petitions.

Once an executor (or administrator with will annexed) is appointed, 120 days are allotted to creditors to offer their claims.  During this period the executor marshals the assets, pays debts and taxes, and files the requisite paperwork with the court.  At the close of the 120 days, the personal representative files a final petition for distribution of estate assets and a court date will be assigned (approximately 3 months).  Once the petition has been approved by the court, the executor will distribute the assets and file the necessary paperwork with the court to close the estate.

As you can see, each step of the probate process involves a substantial amount of time.  The process can take between 9 months to a year, depending on the complexity of the estate and how diligent the executor and his or her attorney are in performing the procedural requirements.  At the Kelly Law Firm we pride ourselves on working through the probate process as diligently as possible.


Contact the attorneys at the Kelly Law Firm, Orange County, Los Angeles, and Long Beach Probate attorneys.

Request a Price Quote

If you require legal services in the areas of probate, estate administration, wills, trusts, litigation, and elder law/abuse, contact The Kelly Law Firm today for a price quote. Our team of experienced lawyers will provide expert advice and representation to protect your rights and interests. We are committed to upholding the rights and interests of our clients in trust, probate, and estate litigation. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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