When a person passes away, their estate often enters a legal process called probate. This process pays the deceased person’s debts and distributes their assets according to their will or California’s intestacy laws if no will exists.
Understanding the probate process is important if you must navigate it for a family member or loved one. The process may seem complex, but knowing the steps can help you get through it.
Starting the probate process
The probate process begins with someone filing a petition with the local probate court. This person is usually the executor named in the will or a close relative if no will exists. The court then examines the will, if there is one, and verifies its validity.
Notifying creditors and taking inventory
The executor must inform all known creditors of the deceased person and evaluate the estate’s assets. This evaluation includes all the deceased person’s assets, such as real estate, bank accounts, investments and personal belongings.
Paying debts and taxes
Next, the executor must settle all the estate’s debts and taxes. This step involves paying any outstanding bills and ensuring the filing of all necessary tax returns.
Distributing the assets
Once the executor pays all debts and taxes, they can distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. This distribution must follow the instructions in the will if one exists. If there is no will, California’s intestacy laws determine the distribution of the assets.
Closing the estate
Finally, the executor will file a final account with the court and request the closing of the estate. This step shows all the transactions made on behalf of the estate, from paying bills to distributing assets. Once the court approves this final account, the probate process ends.
Although it may appear daunting, understanding the probate process can help you handle a deceased loved one’s assets with care and distribute them according to their wishes or the state’s laws.