How to Open Probate Estate in California

February 14, 2016 ·

How to Open Probate Proceedings in California

At any time after the decedent’s death, an interested person may start proceedings for the administration of the estate. This interested person must petition the court for an order determining the date and place of the decedent’s death, for the appointment of a personal representative, and/or to probate the decedent’s will.

Contents of the Petition for Probate

  1. Date and place of the decedent’s death;
  2. Address of the decedent at the time of his or her death;
  3. The name, age, address, and relation to the decedent of each heir or devisee of the decedent;
  4. Estimated value and character of the property of the decedent;
  5. Name of the petitioner; and
  6. If the decedent left a will, the petitioner must attach a copy of the will to the petition.

Most, if not all, California courts will require you to use the form provided by the Judicial Counsel or a form specific to the particular Superior Court that will be hearing the petition. It is always a good idea to make sure that there are not special requirements for the court in your area.

Once you submit your petition for probate, the clerk will set a hearing date. This date will be more than fifteen days (15), but no more than thirty (30) days after the filing of your petition. Because there is only a short time before your matter will be heard you must make sure that you provide the required notices.

Providing Notice

At least 15 days before the hearing, you must serve notice of the hearing to each heir and devisee of the decedent. Also, you must publish notice in a newspaper that is published at least once every week in the city where the decedent resided at his or her time of death. Generally, courts will provide a list of acceptable publications in your area.

The Hearing

If your petition does not have any defects, some courts will allow you to appear the day before the actual hearing via the telephone to have your petition pre-approved. You must check your particular court’s website to find out when and if you will be able to appear this way. If your petition contains defects, you may have to appear in court and explain why the defects still exist. Sometimes the court will waive the defects, but there are times when the court will continue the hearing to allow you time to correct the errors.

If your petition is approved, you will need to provide the court with a completed order and letters of administration. The court may also require that you provide a bond to protect the estate’s assets.

Probate is a complicated and time-consuming process. Little defects may delay the administration of the estate and end up costing you additional money. Probate attorneys have navigated their way through this process countless times and will be able to help you avoid common mistakes. I am always happy to speak with people that may need assistance with opening, administering the estate, and finalizing the required accountings and petition to close the probate estate.

Tags: California Probate

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