When a loved one passes away, it is important to understand the process of filing a will in probate court. Ideally, the executor of the will is responsible for filing California Form DE-111 with the Superior Court of California in the county where the deceased resided at the time of their death. This petition initiates the probate process, which is overseen by the Probate Investigation department. They review all petitions and orders for content and legal requirements before the court acts on them.
The Investigation staff will publish probate notes detailing any legal deficiencies and making recommendations to the Court. These notes are generally available two weeks before the hearing date. Probate is the process of ensuring that the will is valid, distributing property and assets, paying final bills, taxes, and other debts. The court will formally close the estate, complete the probate process and your role as executor. By law, most states require you to file the original will in the probate court in the county where the person lived within 10 to 30 days of possession. If there are assets that need to be liquidated during the estate settlement process or passed on to a beneficiary, you must go through an estate succession.
This process can take longer than 12 months depending on how many assets need to be liquidated and how complex they are. It is not uncommon to discover assets within a few months; their value may mean that the estate no longer qualifies for out-of-court transfer proceedings or that you must legalize them before you can transfer them to the deceased person's living trust. If estate assets are held in trusts, in accounts with designated beneficiaries, or are jointly owned (with the other owner still alive), succession may not be required. However, if real property is jointly owned, legalization is necessary to remove the deceased party from the title. Depending on state protocols and estate size and complexity, this process can take weeks or years. The unsupervised formal will in UPC states is a traditional court procedure that requires you to get permission from the court before selling real estate, distributing property to beneficiaries, or paying an attorney or yourself for work done on behalf of the estate.
The court can be involved in many aspects of estate closing processes, from determining if a will is valid and ensuring laws are followed, to ensuring assets are properly distributed and closing an estate. It is important to understand all aspects of filing a will in probate court so that you can properly close an estate and ensure that all assets are distributed according to law. By following all legal requirements and protocols set by your state and county court, you can minimize your legal risk as an executor.