Understanding the probate process in California can inform your estate plan. With probate, the court supervises your chosen personal representative as he or she administers your will.
Review these considerations regarding California probate when you begin planning your estate.
Assets that require probate
Not every asset needs to go through probate. California does not require probate for:
- Property you owned with someone else in a joint tenancy
- Property you owned with your spouse, known as survivorship community property
- Assets held in a living trust
- Investment and bank accounts if you have established a payable-on-death beneficiary with the financial institution
Your personal representative can avoid probate if the value of your assets outside of these categories does not exceed the limit in California, currently $166,250.
What happens during probate
In your will, you name a personal representative to handle your affairs after you die. This person will submit your will to the court and file a petition to start the process of probate. The probate court will determine the validity of your will before moving forward.
The state requires your representative to give notice to possible creditors, family members and beneficiaries of your estate. Next, the court gives permission for your personal representative, also called an executor, to settle your estate.
Finally, the personal representative will pay your estate’s outstanding bills and taxes, gather and value your assets, and distribute property among your designated beneficiaries. He or she must provide an inventory of the estate property to the court, open a bank account for the estate and keep careful records throughout the process, which takes about six to 12 months.