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What is probate? And what are 6 things to be aware of when going through the process?

When thinking about creating or inheriting a will, people tend to think it is a simple quick process: you create the will, show who gets what, and then those specific people get what was assigned to them within the will. However, there is actually a process that must be completed before the heir receives their inheritance from the deceases will. This process is called probate. This process consists of an executor of the will, who is the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. The executor’s purpose is to ensure most of the work that probate consists of is completed so the heirs to the estate receive their inheritance. The probate doesn’t require a lawyer due to not having any major legal obstacles, however, it is encouraged to hire a legal document assistant to aid in the preparation of the probate forms. In addition to this, a legal document assistant can aid you in better understanding the probate estate laws through informational materials written and approved by an attorney.

Now you might be asking “how long does probate usually take?” and “what are the duties that this process require?”. The process usually takes from around 9 months to a year. In order to begin the process, the executor must apply to admit the deceased’s estate for probate. Once the process starts, that’s when the executor must fulfill the duties required from probate, these duties consist of:

  • Locating all of the deceased’s assets and determining their value. These assets usually include: bank accounts, real estate properties, and personal properties).
  • Publishing notices online and in newspapers inviting creditors and others who have unfinished business with the deceased person to claim money from the estate.
  • Collecting income from the deceased’s investments while the estate is still open
  • Paying expenses related to the estate before it settles
  • Paying the estate’s debts
  • Distributing the deceased’s property to their heirs according to the instructions on their will.

Do all estates need to go through the process of probate?

No, in California, there probate estate laws allow for multiple ways to settle an estate and some can avoid probate completely. If the estate’s value is around $166,250 or less, you can use the simplified small estate process. However, to use this process there cannot be an open probate case and the executor must give their consent for this process. The simplified small estate process requires the following information: 

  • The county where the person lived before death or the name of the county where the property is located, 
  • The estimated value of the estate 
  • A description of the property the heir is asking for
  • The name, age, address, and relationship of each heir and the executor’s name

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