Certain estates of the deceased are subject to administration through the probate court. Generally, if the estate is valued at over $150,000, and ownership does not otherwise pass without the need for court oversight (for example, if the property was held in a living trust), probate will be required. The following are some questions and answers related to the first steps.
How do I start a probate case?
It starts by filing a petition with the court (and other required documents). You are essentially requesting the court to administer the estate. The petition must include all required information, including the basis for jurisdiction, name and contact information for heirs and beneficiaries, the property in the estate, a copy of the will, and who is seeking appointment as personal representative. (“Personal representative” refers to either the executor named in the will, or, if there is no will, to the administrator appointed by the court.)
Whoever has the will must lodge it with the probate court within 30 days of death, send a copy to the person named as executor, and pay the $50 court fee.
Who files the petition for probate?
Any interested party may do so. Often, the named executor will file the petition. But it may be a beneficiary, heir, or even a creditor.
Where do I file the petition?
The petition is usually filed in the county where the decedent was domiciled at the time of death, assuming they were domiciled in California. If the decedent was domiciled outside of California, but owned property in California, the ancillary probate will generally be filed in the county where the property is located.
What happens next?
After the petition is filed, the court will set a date and time for an initial hearing. The petitioner will send out notices of hearing to the relevant parties, publish in a local newspaper, and file a bond if necessary. Attend the initial hearing on the date specified, where the court will appoint a personal representative, issue letters, and consider any contests to the will.
If you have to initiate a probate case, it is best to hire an attorney. For ordinary services in a probate case, the attorney's fee is limited by statute to an amount equal to a percentage of the estate.
Helix Law Firm can help with probate and trust administration
If someone has passed away and you're not sure what to do, we can help. If there was a trust, we can help with administering it. If probate is required, we can assist you. If simplified procedures are available, we will look at the assets in the estate and advise you on your options.
If you're interested in learning more, please call us at (619) 567-4447 to schedule a free consultation.