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What is probate?

Some people may believe that when a loved one dies, the will is simply read by his or her attorney, the heirlooms are passed down and that is the end of it. That is not the case in California or in any other state across the country. A will must go through probate court. Here are some answers to common questions about probate.

What is probate?

Probate is a court case that will determine if a will is legal and valid, will transfer property of the decedent to his or her heirs and will take care of the decedent's final financial responsibilities.

What is an executor?

An executor in a probate case is someone who will pay the decedent's expenses and debts after collecting the assets and then distribute the remaining estate to the errors according to the will. If there is no will, then the court will appoint an administrator.

How long does probate usually take?

According to the California courts, between nine and 18 months.

What are the steps to probate?

When a person with a will passes away, the custodian of the will must file it within 30 days with the probate court clerk's office. A copy of the will is then given to the executor.

The petitioner files a Petition for Probate. The court clerk will then set a date for a hearing. The petitioner notifies the beneficiaries and makes sure there is a publication in the newspaper about the case.

The judge will determine who is appointed as the executor or personal representative. Assets are then gathered, formal notice is given to creditors and the decedent's final income tax return is filed. The judge will determine who gets what property. The executor will ensure that the right people receive what was willed to them. The judge will then ensure everything is done properly and the case is discharged.

Of course, this is a limited explanation of probate and the legal process. The estate you leave behind or that you are handling for a loved one may be more complex. An experienced attorney can make the probate process much easier.

Source: California Courts, "Wills, Estates, and Probate" Aug. 29, 2014

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