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Why Probate Can be a Lengthy Process in California

BY: Law Offices of Andrew Cohen | April 6, 2023

When someone passes in California, their heirs and beneficiaries may inherit their assets. However, depending on the circumstances, this might not happen immediately. Those involved must often go through the probate process before they can receive their inheritance. 

 

This blog will explain the basics of what probate is in California and why it may be a lengthy process. It will also touch on the fact that a Santa Clarita estate planning attorney could help you avoid probate.

Probate in California: What it Is, Why it Takes a Long Time

The process of distributing assets to the beneficiaries and heirs of someone who has passed away is referred to as probate. Steps in the process typically include:

 

  • A petition being filed with the court to open the probate estate
  • The court appointing an executor (if one hasn’t already been named in a will or other such document) to manage the distribution of assets according to the wishes of the deceased
  • Distributing assets according to relevant laws if a will was not made

 

There are various reasons probate can take a long time in California. They include the following:

Tracking Down Assets and Debts

The person in charge of distributing a deceased person’s assets in California must often identify and locate all their assets first. They must also identify and pay off any debts before they can distribute the remaining assets to those set to inherit them.

Court Delays

The probate process naturally involves working through the court system. Because courts may be backlogged, this can result in delays.

Notifications

The executor may need to contact various parties throughout probate, such as beneficiaries and creditors. Notifying all those involved can be a time-consuming process.

Valuation of Assets

It’s often necessary to determine the value of assets before they can be distributed. This adds to the overall length of probate.

Disputes

Unfortunately, sometimes, beneficiaries will argue over who deserves to inherit certain assets. When disputes arise, probate can take longer than it already does.

Claims

Creditors can make claims against the estate of the deceased if they had any outstanding debts. Reviewing such claims and evaluating their validity is another task an executor must complete during probate.

Avoiding Probate in California

Although probate can take a long time, none of this is meant to suggest that beneficiaries must always go through a lengthy process before they can receive what is left to them. There are ways to bypass probate in California.

 

For example, instead of creating a traditional will, someone could create a living trust. This essentially allows them to transfer ownership of their assets to someone else so that they won’t have to go through probate.

 

Is this an option that interests you? If so, discuss it in further detail with a legal professional. At the Law Offices of Andrew Cohen, a Santa Clarita estate planning attorney can help you better understand whether it’s right for you, and they can guide you through the process of setting up a living trust if you decide to do so. Contact us online or call us at 661-481-0100 for more information.

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