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What You Need To Know About Probate In Lancaster, CA

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

A Quick Guide To The Probate Process In California

Probate can be confusing and difficult to comprehend. In most estate law cases, you won't be able to avoid it. Coming in blind would put you at a disadvantage, given the stakes involved in the probate of properties and assets.

Let's start with the most common inquiries about California Probate Laws, which our pre-screened Lancaster Estate Law Attorneys frequently answer.

california probate laws

How Long Does It Take To Get A Will?

According to California law, a will executor or other representative of the deceased must complete the probate process within a (1) year of their appointment (usually months after the date of death) or formally explain their inability to the court.

That said, depending on how busy the courts are or if an error is made along the way, the process might take anywhere from 18 to 24 months.

A Lancaster Estate Law Attorney can assist you with organizing and compiling relevant paperwork and reminding you of critical dates.

How Much Do You Have To Pay For Probate In California?

Probate fees include court fees, executor's fees, property assessment fees, pricing for certified copies of documents, accounting fees, and legal fees.

If a Will is disputed, or if the beneficiaries disagree with the distribution in any other way, the costs will definitely be far greater, and the process could take years.

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Is Going Through Probate Really Necessary for Me?

It is a common fallacy that all you need to claim your inheritance is a Will. In California, a "Last Will & Testament" does not shield you from having to go through probate.

Instead, think of a Will as a document that explains the deceased's wishes to a probate judge. You give the Will to a court at probate, and the judge decides what happens next.

Inquire with your Lancaster Estate Law Attorney about the legal steps you'll need to follow.

What if the Executor Fails to Prove the Will?

To be clear, unless you have assets that are clearly exempt from probate, you cannot just read a Will and follow its instructions without going through the courts.

If you are not a spouse or a legitimate Trustee of an estate and simply take possession of, say, cash lying around the house or a car or withdraw money from the deceased's account, you could be charged even if you are the executor of the Will.

You could be held personally liable for the estate's expenses and financial consequences for the deceased's heirs if you are nominated as an executor but do nothing to start probate.

Which Assets Aren't Subject to Probate in an Estate?

Some assets may be subject to distribution by a probate court, while others may not. For starters, any assets placed in a Living Trust before death will not be subject to probate court; instead, the new Trustee will distribute them according to the Trust's regulations.

Similarly, life insurance payouts are not subject to probate because they are made directly to beneficiaries. Assets kept in banks and investment organizations with properly declared Payable on Death (POD) or Transfer on Death (TOD) beneficiaries can be transferred directly to those beneficiaries without going through probate. Even if probate is necessary, most retirement savings are transferred this way, using PODs that are not subject to probate.

Of course, any jointly owned property by a couple can be claimed by the surviving spouse without going through probate. However, not jointly owned assets are a different story, and probate will almost probably be necessary.

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Will or no will, any assets not covered by one of the scenarios as mentioned above will have to go through Probate Court. Your loved one may, for example, have created a Living Trust but forgotten to re-title their home to the Trust. They may also not have correctly listed PODs on an investment account.

Inquire with your Lancaster Estate Lawyer for further information. They'll know exactly what to do and how to approach your case in your best interests.

What If Something Got Left Out?

What if your loved one set up a Living Trust but forgot to include one of their most important assets? You may have specific possibilities for avoiding probate on such assets depending on the wording of the Trust.

In some cases, when a Living Trust designates a house as a Trust asset but no paperwork was ever filed to bring the residence under the Trust, you may be able to petition for specific exclusions.

Find An California Estate Lawyer in Lancaster is Certified by the California Bar Association to provide you with a Free Attorney Referral Service.

We can refer you to an experienced pre-screened Estate Lawyer in California who is best fit to handle your case.

Contact us through our 24/7 live chat (or complete our case submission form) for a free initial consultation.


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