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California Probate: How it’s Supposed to Work and What Can Go Wrong

A successful California probate defined by our firm is:

  • Transferring an accurate and explicit title to the appropriate beneficiaries or heirs
  • Stopping false creditors’ claims
  • Taking less than two years

Probate typically takes a long period of time, because of the large number of waiting periods that take place between filings and hearings. If everything goes smoothly, seven months is the very minimum of how long probate will take. The average California probate will take about 14 months to complete. Additionally, some of this is due to wait times to get into court hearings.

The California probate process works as follows:

  • First, our office draws up the initial petition.
  • Then, you need to review the petition and sign.
  • Our office files the petition for probate along with the court.
  • From the filing date, the date for first probate hearing is set for 6 to 12 weeks.
  • In addition, we will send you an application to complete if Bond is needed, and also have it filled out and be returned to us before the first hearing.
  • The Court accepts petition for probate and also appoints an executor or administrator.
  • Additionally, prepare an inventory and appraisal detailing all items owned by the deceased. This must be filed within 120 days of the letters of administration/testamentary are issued.
  • The inventory and appraisal is assigned to a probate referee to appraise the items in the estate. They have 60-days to complete this process.
  • A 4-month creditor claims period follows. (This starts from the date the letters are issued.)
  • After the creditor claims period ends, then we help you address the creditors that need to be paid.
  • Additionally, our office files a petition in order to distribute property and close estate.
  • Furthermore, a second probate hearing is held 6 to 12 weeks after filing.
  • Estate is distributed and closed.

There are a number of problems that can hold up the closing of a California Probate, and this can drag it out for years.

Common reasons probate takes longer include:

  • A creditor files a claim to the estate.
  • If the Bond application is not filled out on time or if it is not approved, and this can delay the case.
  • Additionally, Real Estate needs to be sold.
  • Notice of probate isn’t given to all affected parties.
  • Furthermore, petition for probate has missing information or mistakes.
  • Petition to close the estate has missing information or mistakes.
  • Notice of publication has mistakes, or was released too soon.
  • Beneficiaries disagree about the distribution of the estate.
  • For this reason, information for the Inventory and Appraisal are not provided immediately.
  • Lawsuits resulting from inaccuracies or perceived inaccuracies in the case.

Beneficiaries who are unsatisfied with the distribution of an estate will often take actions that stall probate indefinitely. Are you the executor or administrator of an estate in need of guidance through the California probate process? The probate and trust lawyers with The Grossman Law Firm serve clients throughout California with convenient office locations in Riverside, Temecula, and San Diego. Our office specializes in probate and estate administration, will and trust contests, as well as estate and trust litigation. To discuss your case at no cost, call us toll-free at 888-443-6590. To reach us online, use our online contact form.

Additionally, be sure to request a copy of Scott Grossman’s FREE book The Insider’s Guide to California Probate and Trust Administration.

Scott Grossman

Scott Grossman


The Grossman Law Firm, APC · 525 B Street, Suite 1500, San Diego, CA 92101 · (951) 523-8307

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