Probate in California is generally a drawn out process which can be costly, time consuming, and difficult to understand. Probate is often required in order to establish the title to assets so that those assets can be transferred from the decedent to others (beneficiaries or heirs). The establishment of clear title is required in order to resell the assets, and the probate process can take from six months to many years.
During the probate process, the executor (who is the person nominated in the will with the responsibility of administering the estate) must ask the court to be granted authority to administer the estate. Persons having interest in the estate (heirs and relatives, for example) are given notice of the administration of the will and given a chance to object to the validity of the will or to the appointment of the executor (or personal representative).
After all objections to the will are heard (and usually, but not always, there are none) the executor must distribute the estate according to the terms of the will. This includes the following responsibilities:
- collect, safeguard, and inventory the assets of the estate
- notify creditors of the estate and pay debts and bills
- file tax returns and pay taxes
- petition the court for the final distribution of the estate
- distribute estate assets according to the terms of the will