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By: Scott Grossman on May 5th, 2018

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

A successful Probate Process in California 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

The probate process in California typically takes a long 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 waiting times to get into court hearings.

The Probate Process in California works as follows:

  • First, our office draws up the initial petition.
  • Then, you need to review the petition and sign it.
  • Our office files the petition for probate along with the court.
  • From the filing date, the date for the 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 the 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 being issued.
  • The inventory and appraisal are 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 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 several 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, the 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 is 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.


If you are ready to start your case, then please give us a call or fill out our Get Help Now form. A comprehensive overview of California Probate is available here. Should you have additional questions about trust litigation, you will find plenty of useful information in our Learning Center.