The loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences a person can endure. In addition to grieving the loss, there can be many questions arising from settling that person’s affairs. Many family members have never dealt with a probate proceeding and wonder if it is required and how it proceeds.
Probate proceedings take place in probate court and are very technical, document heavy matters. While there are many issues that can arise in the administration of a probate estate, there are certain aspects that are standard in most cases. After the probate petition has been filed, the court will ascertain whether or not the decedent had a will. The court will also determine whether or not that will is valid, meaning that it was made in a manner that complied with California law concerning proper formation and modification of testamentary documents.
After these issues have been determined, the proceedings will move forward to “settle the estate” of the decedent. This process has two aspects. First, it is necessary to identify and pay any lawful creditors of the decedent’s estate. Then, any remaining assets are distributed to the rightful beneficiaries or heirs. This is accomplished through the decedent’s instructions in his or her will, or if there is no will, by intestate succession, which is a method of distribution dictated by California Law.