The Probate Process in California
“Probate” is the legal process of transferring property upon a person’s death. In California if you die with a Will or without a Will, your estate will go through the probate process. The probate process is extremely costly.
For example, for an estate with assets valued at $500,000 the attorney fees alone are $13,000. The process is also lengthy averaging about one and a half years in Los Angeles County. That is if you have a simple estate. The worst part of probate is the fact that it is public knowledge. The best thing would be to avoid probate at all costs with various legal tools, such as a living trust.
So, what happens during a probate administration of an estate? After the death of an individual, her loved ones will petition the court to start a formal probate proceeding. Once they get the green light from the Judge, they will begin collecting information about the assets in the estate, paying all debts and claims, dealing with disputing family members, distributing property to the heirs among other things.
But, between starting the probate proceeding and distributing the assets to the heirs, you must go through different court hurdles to get things done. For example, if you want to sell a piece of real estate, you may have to ask for permission beforehand. The Judge might require you to post a bond before he lets you sell the property. You are essentially being supervised by court every step of the way.
Of course, all of this could be avoided with proper planning ahead of time saving family or friends the headache of dealing with the court system altogether.