How Long Does the Probate Process Take? Figuring out how long your probate will take is one of the most common questions when the process starts. As most attorneys will say regarding most legal topics, the answer is: It depends.
Several factors can affect the length of probate in California. This includes locating a will, obtaining a death certificate, determining assets, completing the California Petition for Probate Form, filing the form and waiting for a hearing, paying bills and debts, distributing to beneficiaries and heirs, and closing out the estate. These are the steps needed to complete probate, and depending on the complexity of the estate, it may take different lengths of time.
Here is a preliminary look at what affects the length of probate, how to avoid probate and other rules related to the process that may affect its timeliness.
Typical Length of Probate Process in California
As the family and the estate administrator process the necessary paperwork, the approximate length of time for completion is 12-18 months in California. Probate attorneys can help expedite the process by handling the paperwork more efficiently.
If the paperwork was organized and consolidated in an easily accessible and secure location, this could also shorten the length of probate. It is a good idea to keep documents organized to reduce the amount of time that family members will have to search. Additionally, properly organized documents that are easily accessible can quickly eliminate any questions or concerns raised regarding the will.
How Long Do You Have to File Probate After a Death Occurs?
According to California Probate Code, a custodian of a will has 30 days to lodge it upon discovering the person’s death. They must deliver the will, either by hand or certified mail, to the probate court clerk and a copy of the will to the identified executor. If the executor cannot be located or identified, the will must be delivered to a beneficiary.
To avoid lengthening the probate process, it’s a good idea to update your estate. Updating your estate regularly, especially if you’re a senior, allows the process to move more smoothly and avoid pitfalls such as not immediately identifying or locating the executor.
Is Probate Always Required?
Not always. There are two ways to avoid probate in California.
The first way involves creating a living or revocable trust. This allows assets to be distributed to beneficiaries and heirs without court oversight. However, the trust must be established before the principal’s death. Creating a revocable trust is a great idea for anyone, regardless of age. An experienced probate attorney can help you in this process if you wish your family to avoid the probate process.
The second way involves filing a small estate affidavit. This allows a person who had a small estate, specifically under $166,250 for decedents dying in 2021, to distribute the assets without court oversight. This process streamlines the distribution and will enable families to avoid the lengthy probate procedure. The estate cannot already be in probate court before you begin filing a small estate affidavit. If it is, the estate’s personal representative must agree in writing to let you file a small estate affidavit.
Should I Hire an Attorney When Dealing With The Probate Process?
It can be exceptionally grueling and stressful for any family that is managing the probate process after a death. This is an added layer of stress on top of the expected grief that any family would feel after the death of a loved one. When a probate attorney is hired to assist a family through the process, numerous benefits are created.
A probate attorney can help to ensure the process moves more quickly and that no steps are being missed. The personal representative of an estate is bound by fiduciary duties, the violation of which may make the representative personally liable. A probate attorney can help you to satisfy your fiduciary duties. Additionally, a probate attorney takes on the burden of managing paperwork and court filings so that the family can spend more time grieving and processing their loss instead of handling legal paperwork. Lastly, if will contests, challenges, or questions arise, an experienced probate or estate attorney can assist in mediating or resolving issues.
If you are looking for help in getting through the probate process, or possibly avoiding it altogether, contact the Office of Mark Gullotta for a consultation.