After a loved one passes on, there are so many things that must be dealt with, it can seem overwhelming. Upon hearing the word probate, a lot of unpleasant thoughts are likely to race through one's head. The truth is, probate does not have to be a scary or intimidating thing. Knowledge is power, and knowing what to expect can make the probate process easier with which to deal. In that spirit, this column will answer some common questions California residents have about probate.
The first question that will be discussed is: What is the purpose of probate? When someone dies, his or her estate will need to be distributed to beneficiaries, taxes will need to be paid and debts to creditors will need to be settled. All of these things happen during probate.
The second question to be discussed is: How long does probate take? Every case is unique. However, most cases can be settled in 9 to 18 months. It can take even longer if an estate is pretty complex, if a will is contested or if claims take a while to be settled.
The third question that will be talked about is: How does the probate process get started? The person assigned as the custodian of the will must file a petition in court. There is a 30-day window in which this must be done following a person's death. After the petition is filed, a date for the first hearing will be set, and notifications will need to be sent to all parties who have the right to make claims on the estate -- such as family members and creditors.
Finally: Is probate really necessary? Not always. There are some estates that may avoid probate altogether. An experienced attorney would be able to review one's case and provide further information about whether probate is in fact necessary in order to close out an estate.
These are just a few of many questions that California residents may have about probate. Obviously there are many more that could be discussed. A skilled attorney can provide even further detail about these specific questions and any others one might have.
Source: courts.ca.gov, "Wills, Estates, and Probate", Accessed on March 23, 2017