The Probate Process in California – A Summary

The probate process in California can be daunting to those already dealing with the loss of a friend or family member. But with the proper guidance, any intelligent and responsible person can navigate the court system and reach the ultimate goal: the safe and efficient transfer of a decedent’s property to those entitled to it.

The process starts with getting a general sense of the property owned by the decedent. Did he or she have a house or other interest in real property? Bank and investment accounts? Life insurance policies? Usually a quick search of their financial records will turn up the evidence needed.

The quick search may also turn up a copy of the decedent’s Last Will or Revocable Trust. If they have a trust, their property might not pass through probate; otherwise, a court process is likely necessary.

With some sense of the decedent’s property and their prior estate planning, you’re ready to contact a reputable “estate” or “probate” attorney. Avoid attorneys without a clear focus in this area of law. A generalist is not the best choice here.

Your attorney will help you determine the best options to proceed with the property transfer process. Does an executor or administrator need to be appointed? What county will the probate proceeding take place in? Who has to be notified? All of these questions need to be answered before the next steps can be taken.