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After a loved one passes away, their money and property must be distributed to the right people, either according to their will or the state’s default distribution scheme (found in its “intestacy” statute). While most people want the settlement process to be done ASAP, probate can take between 12 and 24 months. Yes, you heard that right. The time delays create unnecessary stress, especially for families who need access to those accounts or property.

How Long Does Probate Take in California?

Probate can take between 12 and 24 months in California, significantly longer than the national average. The complexity and volume of estates, coupled with the state’s size and demographics, contribute to these extended timelines.

Probate Process in California

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased individual. It involves validating the will (if one exists), identifying and appraising assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries or heirs.

Steps of the Probate Process

  1. Filing the Petition:
    • The probate process begins with filing a petition with the probate court to initiate proceedings.
  2. Appointment of Personal Representative:
    • A court appoints a personal representative or executor to manage estate administration.
  3. Asset Inventory and Appraisal:
    • The personal representative catalogs the deceased’s assets and arranges for their appraisal.
  4. Debt and Tax Settlement:
    • Outstanding debts and taxes are settled using the estate’s assets.
  5. Asset Distribution:
    • Once debts and taxes are cleared, remaining assets are distributed to beneficiaries or heirs.

California Probate Court Timeline

The average duration for probate in California ranges from 18 to 24 months, longer than the national average of six to nine months. Several factors, such as the state’s large and wealthy population and the court system’s high caseload, contribute to this extended timeline.

How Long Does Probate Take Without a Will?

Challenges of Intestate Succession

When a person dies without a will, their estate is distributed according to California’s intestacy laws. This process can be more complex and time-consuming due to the need to establish legal heirs.

How Intestate Distribution May Delay Probate

  1. Paperwork:
    • Managing probate-required paperwork with structured timelines and court-imposed deadlines can be overwhelming.
  2. Complexity:
    • Estates with numerous or complicated assets take longer to probate.
  3. Court Caseload:
    • High caseloads and limited staff in probate courts can delay the process.
  4. Creditor Notification:
    • Creditors must be notified and given time to submit claims, which can extend the timeline.

How to Speed Up the Probate Process

Creating and funding a trust can help avoid the lengthy probate process. Trusts ensure that assets are distributed according to the trust agreement without court supervision, reducing time, costs, and stress.

Executor’s Role in Streamlining Probate

An executor or personal representative plays a crucial role in managing and expediting the probate process. They ensure that all legal requirements are met, assets are accurately appraised, and debts and taxes are settled promptly.

Working with a Probate Lawyer

Benefits of Professional Help

Working with an experienced probate lawyer can help navigate probate proceedings, ensuring a more efficient and timely process. They provide guidance on legal requirements, asset valuation, and debt settlement.

Monitoring Probate Progress

A probate lawyer can monitor the progress of the probate case, addressing any issues that arise and helping to resolve disputes among beneficiaries.

Why is probate taking so long? 

Our Comprehensive Estate Planning Services

At Hermance Law, we offer comprehensive estate planning services to help you navigate the probate process smoothly. Our team of experienced attorneys can assist with creating trusts to avoid probate, ensuring a seamless distribution of assets. Contact us today for a free consultation and take the first step toward easing the probate process.

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