In California, the probate process can sometimes take as little as nine months, but that is not common. Typically, it can take anywhere from several months to a year-and-a-half, with more complex cases taking two years or more. Considering how long a case may take, can help you better understand the process.
Stages of the California Probate Process
There are typically no more than seven phases of the probate process when cases are simple, which are those with no difficult creditor claims, disputes over ownership of assets, or arguments against a will. These phases allow the probate process to run smoothly and they are as follows:
Locating a Will
It is common for the decedent’s attorney to provide the court with the individual’s will, with a simple call to advising counsel that the person has passed away to get the process started. The lawyer will then access the client’s file and begin probate administration. However, if the individual’s loved ones are uncertain of who prepared the will, they may need to search the person’s home for documentation. A delay may arise if the will is found to have been placed in a safe deposit box, as it may require a court order to open the box.
Providing a Death Certificate
A death certificate is required for any organization that will be involved in the probate process, inclusive of life insurance companies, brokerage firms, and banks.
Filing a Petition With the Probate Court
A petition for probate is a filing requirement of the probate administration. This usually includes providing the death certificate and a copy of the will. When there is a will, the court will appoint the individual named by the decedent as the executor of the will. If there is no known will, the judge will typically appoint someone to be the administrator of the intestate estate.
Identifying an individual’s assets can take months to complete and sometimes, may even require waiting until the following year to get annual statements from where the person held accounts. In some cases, professional appraisals are necessary to assess the value of belongings.
Paying Creditors & Taxes
Paying creditors and taxes are one of the executor’s duties. This includes gathering the individual’s remaining bills, including any end-of-life medical expenses, ensuring they are valid and pay them off. Further, the executor must also filing the individual’s estate tax return and final income tax return.
The administrator or executor is responsible to distribute whatever assets are left to the decedent’s legal heirs. If the individual left a will, it should provide the distribution information for beneficiaries of assets. However, in cases where there is no will, the remaining assets will be dispersed according to the state’s intestacy laws.
Completing the Probate Process
Lastly, an accounting of the estate must be approved by the court. Once all the phases mentioned above are completed, the probate court will close the individual’s file.
Why Does Probate Take So Long?
As noted, probate is a time-consuming process because the executor must carefully examine all bank statements, tax returns, and other documents to ensure the decedent’s assets are properly accounted for. It is a good idea that the executor seek counsel of an experienced probate attorney in Orange County to help them complete their duties and avoid any delays.
Factors That Can Shorten or Lengthen the Probate Timeline
Having a will that outlines the distribution of assets and knowledge of where documents are kept can help the probate process be smooth and transition quicker from phase to phase.
Complex cases where there are many assets or moreover, many more beneficiaries, can impact the probate process and it is then more likely that a dispute may arise while the estate is being administered. Further, if a beneficiary decides to hire their own attorney to monitor the probate administration, then it may lead to a lengthier process as motions can be filed requiring the court’s approval before the process may go on.
Get Legal Advice From a Probate Attorney at Evolution Tax and Legal
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult, and having to deal with that loss while learning your way around the intricacies of the probate process can be overwhelming for most. It is easy to see why many people seek legal professionals to assist with the process. It is why we at Evolution Tax & Legal can help to ease this burden and help the family through difficult times with compassion and efficiency. We encourage you to visit our website today to schedule a free consultation and find out how we can best serve you and your family.