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Understanding probate

probate sales

Everyone has a will or plan, whether created or by default. Even if you have not made out a will or a trust, you still have a plan – a plan dictated by the laws of the state where you reside upon your death. Making a will is not a way to avoid “probate”, which is the court procedure that changes the legal ownership of your property after your death. Probate makes sure it is your last valid will, appoints the executor named in your will and supervises the executor’s work. You can do several things now that can help your executor and family later, hopefully much later on.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. The will must be admitted to probate and the estate of the decedent must be “probated”.

Generally, probate is a court proceeding that administers the estate of an individual.

Generally, there are five purposes, many of which have subsets to them:

  1. To determine that the decedent is in fact dead,
  2. To establish the validity of the will,
  3. To identify the heirs and devisees of the decedent,
  4. To settle any claims that creditors may have against the estate of the decedent, and
  5. To distribute the property.

Generally speaking, a public administrator is a person or entity appointed by the State to act when there is no will or relatives.

When one is said to have died “Testate,” it means he or she died leaving a will. If one is said to have died “Intestate,” it means he or she died without leaving a will.

An “executor” carries out the directions and requests set forth in the decedent’s will. An “administrator” is appointed by the court to manage the estate of a decedent who dies intestate.

Very generally speaking they are as follows: Death of decedent.

  1. The will is delivered to the executor or Court Clerk.
  2. A petition is filed for the Probate of Will or Letters of Administration.
  3. A hearing is held on the petition.
  4. Letters of Administration are issued by the Court.
  5. Notice to creditors is given.
  6. Inventory and appraisement of the estate is made by an independent probate appraiser.
  7. File Federal estate tax return.  Return states “No Tax Due” or specifies an amount due.
  8. Final accounting and petition for distribution.
  9. Final decree of distribution.
  10. Discharge of personal representative.

Yes.. Without getting into too much detail it can be sold either at private sale in which the executor of the estate negotiates a transaction with a buyer or at public sale in which the property is sold at public auction.

Sections 6400 through 6414 of the California Probate Code address intestate succession and the distributions.  The method and manner of intestate distributions is quite complex and therefore one should specifically discuss intestate distributions with his or her legal advisor.

Information Source:  California Land Title Association

Probate Timeline

Prepare and File Petition for ProbateMonth 1
Court hearing on the Petition for ProbateMonths 2-3
The following are issued:  Letters of Administration, Orders for Probate, Duties and Liabilities, Issue Bond (if ordered), & **Letters  Testamentary **Months 3-4
Notice to CreditorsMonths 4-8
Inventory & AppraisementMonths 4-8
Pay State and Federal Taxes (if necessary)Months 1-12
Allow or Reject Creditor ClaimsMonths 4-8
Possible Preliminary Distributions 
Notice to Department of Health Services (if deceased received Medi-Cal)Months 4-8
Notice to Franchise Tax BoardMonths 4-8
Claim of Exemption (if assets transfer to a minor) 
Receive Final Tax Letter from State and Federal (if appropriate)Months 8-16
File Petition for Final Distribution and AccountingMonths 8-16
Hearing on Petition for final Distribution and AccountingMonths 8-16
Order Approving Final Distribution and AccountingMonths 8-16
Distribution of Assets to HeirsMonths 8-18
Final Discharge Order (indicates close of probate case)Months 8-18

Executive's Duties

Estate Executive’s Duties During the Probate Process

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