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What a Retiree Should Know About California Probate Law

When a person dies, their estate will likely go through probate before it’s distributed to their heirs. This means making sure those who the recently deceased still owed money to are able to receive compensation. Given the fact roughly one out of every ten Americans lives in California, we figured it’d be a good idea to go over the probate process there.

What a Retiree Should Know About California Probate Law

Probate in California, like other states, involves several steps including securing the services of a local probate attorney, will validation, property inventory and identification, appraisal, paying taxes and debts, and asset distribution.

Below is a further explanation of the California probate process:

—>> It’s Necessary to Appoint an Executor

Before probate is initiated, the court must choose someone to oversee the proceedings. When a retiree makes a will, the document typically designates an executor or personal representative to take on that responsibility. The estate executor must remain fair and impartial in their representation of interested parties, and they will take possession of the estate’s assets before distributing them according to the will’s terms.

—>> Filing a Petition is the Next Step

After choosing an executor, the estate must file a petition with California’s Superior Court in the county in which the person resided at the time of death. The petition leads the court to schedule a hearing within about 30 days. When it’s time to probate the will and the petition have been filed, a hearing notice must be published in a local newspaper a minimum of three times. The notice must also be mailed to all named beneficiaries, creditors, and legal heirs.

—>>  The Will Must be Validated

When a retiree leaves a will, it must be ‘proven’ unless it’s a qualified, self-proving document. If this is the case, the will must contain certain phrasing or a signed affidavit. With these added provisions, it’s no longer necessary to prove the will’s validity through probate.

—>> Assets Must be Gathered

When learning what retirees need to know about estate planning, you’ll learn that one of an estate executor’s main duties is to gather all of the decedent’s assets that are subject to probate under California’s laws. Certain types of property aren’t required to be probated, but stocks, bonds, mutual funds, bank accounts, motor vehicles, boats, and other physical assets require an inventory and appraisal.

—>> Creditors Must be Paid

Once the estate executor has notified creditors of the retiree’s passing, those creditors must submit claims against the estate. If the claims are validated by the court and a probate attorney, they’ll be paid from the estate’s funding before other distributions are made. Probate law in California requires all creditors to submit claims within 120 days of the executor’s appointment.

—>> Estate Taxes Must be Paid

The estate executor is also tasked with paying all estate taxes, including state and federal taxes. In most instances, executors are not held liable for these taxes themselves. However, if an estate distribution has taken place before those taxes are paid and there are not enough assets left, some degree of personal liability might be imposed.

—>> Conclusion

Closing the estate is the final step in the California probate process. Here, the executor provides an account of all the actions they took regarding the estate before filing it with the court. The filing will also include any fees to be paid to the estate representative and the probate lawyer, if applicable. If there’s no objection and the court approves the document, the estate will be closed, and the executor can distribute remaining assets to the retiree’s heirs.

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