When someone passes away, the property they own and the money they have that makes up their estate is distributed to their heirs or their beneficiaries according to their will. This can’t happen until the deceased individual’s will or estate has gone through probate. Probate is the legal distribution of the deceased’s estate. To get an idea of how long it can take following California probate for an inheritance to be distributed, you should consider the timeline of the steps for completing the probate process.
California probate can be a long process. There are seven necessary steps that must be completed before an estate can be distributed to heirs in the form of an inheritance.
If there is a will, the executor named in the will should file a “Petition for Probate” with the state’s probate court. If there is no will, or if the executor isn’t present, the family should agree on someone to act as the administrator of the estate. They must then ask the court to appoint and recognize that family representative as the estate administrator. The executor, or administrator, should expect to be in the role for about six months, but sometimes they could serve as long as 18 months. This is not an estimate of the time it will take for distributions, and it can take even longer than this for funds to be distributed. The petition should be filed in the county where the deceased person resided. The county fee is around $435, though some counties may charge more. A hearing will be scheduled for about 30 days from the processing of the initial petition.
The court will list an announcement in the local newspaper that serves as a notice of the upcoming hearing date. This information will be published no less than three times. In addition, the family members must mail a notice of the hearing date to each person who is named in the will (if a will exists), as well as the legal heirs of the deceased. Lastly, a notice must be sent to any potential or known creditors.
It is necessary, if there is a will, to qualify the will or “self-prove” it. Some wills contain specific clauses or an affidavit from those who signed the will. In this case, it is not necessary to prove the validity of the will.
One of the jobs of the personal representative (i.e., administrator or executor) is to take possession of those assets that were left behind by the deceased that are subject to the state probate process. Some estate planning documents are not subject to probate, such as a trust. To transfer an asset into the name of the personal representative, they must take steps to make the transfer and get titles transferred into their name. These are assets such as:
The court will likely ask for an inventory of the estate and an appraisal of property, in some cases.
The debts to the creditors are paid first from the estate. After creditors have been notified of the death, they must submit a claim to the estate within one year from the date of the death. The estate will then actively pay claims that are deemed valid. Once all debts are paid, including funeral expenses and outstanding bills, the process can progress to the next step.
The administrator is responsible for making sure all estate taxes are paid, including state and federal taxes. A personal representative (administrator) can be held liable if the beneficiaries are paid before taxes and there are not enough remaining assets to cover the taxes.
The final step will be to close the estate. This requires a detailed list of all the actions taken in settling the estate, including payment of fees to the administrator, the attorney, etc. If there are no objections by the court, it will enter an order to conclude the estate. Only then may the administrator distribute the remaining estate assets to the beneficiaries or heirs and pay any remaining fees.
A: California law states that the administrator of an estate or executor of a will must finish the probate process within one year from the date they were appointed as personal representative. The only exception is when a federal estate tax is filed, for which the administrator has 18 months to close the estate.
A: When the final petition is filed, and the court approves the closing of probate, the administrator distributes the estate to the beneficiaries or heirs of the will. Recipients must sign a receipt that confirms the distribution of the estate assets. The signed receipts must then be filed with the court by the administrator. Once the estate is dissolved, the administrator files a form called an Ex Parte for Final Discharge and Order.
A: After a final account of the actions taken on behalf of the estate and the petition for distribution is filed by the administrator, then the funds are available to pay all debts and taxes. Once the timeframe for debtor claims to be filed has expired, the estate can be closed, and the distribution of the estate’s assets can commence.
A: Simple wills can take as few as six months to close an estate, but it can take up to as many as 18 months for complicated estate cases. The average estate takes 12 months to complete the probate process. State law requires an estate to be closed within one year of the administrator’s appointment or 18 months if a federal estate tax is filed.
If you need a California probate attorney, Sweeney Probate Law can help you navigate the processes of California probate court. Our experience and knowledge regarding California probate court can be a valuable resource in completing the closing of the estate, allowing you to do so more quickly than without a private probate attorney. Contact Sweeney Probate Law and schedule a consultation to discuss how our services can assist you in your probate court case.