The California Probate Process

In California, superior courts oversee the  process. Probate proceedings are to settle the final legal and financial matters of a decedent's estate. If decedent leaves a valid will, a probate court will distribute the decedent's property according to his wishes. If a decedent dies without a will, or intestate, a probate court will establish who his heirs are and distribute his property according to California's probate code and laws of intestacy. California also offers an affidavit procedure for transfer of small estates


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California Probate Basics

Probate departments of California's superior courts supervise the probate process. Whether a decedent dies with or without a will, only certain types of property are probate property. Real property is considered probate property, while trusts and life insurance proceeds pass to beneficiaries outside probate. According to California's probate code, the custodian of a will has 30 days from the date of knowledge of the decedent's death to file a copy with the probate court and to mail a copy of the will to the person named as executor in the will.

Probate and Testate Succession

In calculating the value of the deceased’s assets and real estate, all items are included except:
  • Vehicles, trailers, mobile homes, manufactured homes, commercial coaches, truck campers, floating homes, and vessels without documents;
  • Unpaid salary of any amount owing for services in the armed forces, and up to $5,000 owing for services from other employment;
  • Joint tenancy property, life estates, and property passing outright to a surviving spouse;
  • Multiple-party accounts that pass on death directly to another party on the account; accounts that were payable-on-death to another person; and all real estate or other assets held in a living trust.

When a person dies with a will, he is said to have died testate. In California, a valid will must comply with the requirements given in its probate code. Because California is a community property jurisdiction, a decedent cannot leave more than 50 percent of his share of the marital estate to someone other than his surviving spouse. Absent any other illegality, probate courts must abide by a decedent's last wishes. If a decedent's will is contested, California probate courts hear any contests and resolve them.