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Biddle Law Estate Planning Blog

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Basics of Settling an Estate

The process of settling an estate is commonly referred to as “probate.” It requires an understanding of not only the will that your loved one left but also an itemization of their assets and liabilities as well as an appreciation for the probate laws and process in California. 

Every estate is unique, and what may work best for one estate may not even be necessary for another estate. As a whole, however, the majority of estates require the same basic steps. 

Acquire and Review the Will

The first step in most probate processes is to acquire and review the will. The will is your guide in how you should proceed in the probate process as the executor. It will set out who should get what, and it may designate who should take on specific obligations or liabilities as well. The will also gives you an idea of what kind of assets you should be inventorying and whom you should contact regarding settling the estate.

Determine Beneficiaries and Notify Them of their Status

The will sets out who will be a beneficiary of the estate. As the executor, it is your obligation to determine who the beneficiaries are and notify them of their status as a recipient. In some situations, it can be difficult to track down specific beneficiaries, so this process will take some significant time and effort. In other circumstances, you may already be familiar with all of the beneficiaries and how to get in contact with them. 

Prepare and File a Formal Probate Petition with the Court

In most estates, you will be required to prepare and file a petition with the Probate Court. This petition will start the official probate process. It will start the procedure to grant you the rights and powers as an executor, and it will confer specific duties upon you in this role. 

Publish a Notice of the Probate Action in the Local Newspaper

In many situations, you will be required to publish a notification that the probate has been opened in the local newspaper. This will put other interested parties that you may not even be aware of on notice that your loved one has passed away and that they should bring their claims forward. Along the same vein, you should also send notifications to specific parties that you know exist that may have interest in the estate.

Prepare For and Attend the Initial Probate Hearing

Once you have filed your Petition for probate, the Court will set a hearing that marks the beginning of the probate process. The initial hearing will establish you as the executor and get you started on the process of settling the estate. You should obtain a certified letter authorizing you as the executor that you can use throughout the probate process and a copy of the Order of Probate. These items will allow you to deal with banks, creditors, and other relevant entities on behalf your loved one and the beneficiaries.

Settling the Estate

Once you have completed this initial process, then you can start inventorying assets, paying debts, and providing distributions to beneficiaries. The entire probate process often takes between five and seven months, but it can last considerably longer as well, particularly if there are challenges to the will or distribution process. Get the legal help you need with this process by contacting Biddle Law today!


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