Probate is the court supervised process of administering an estate and transferring the decedent's assets pursuant to the directions set forth in a will. In California, probate can be a lengthy and expensive process. Some matters may be wrapped up in less than a year, but many matters take a year or longer, depending on a number of factors. 

Therefore, there are several steps that people can take to avoid probate court altogether. For example, when the deceased person owns assets in joint tenancy with another person, or in a living trust, or as survivorship community property with their spouse, then those assets won't pass through probate. The same goes for payable on death accounts and assets that are held in a revocable living trust.

A person's estate includes personal property, bank accounts, investments, artwork, collectibles, jewelry, real estate and automobiles etc. If a person had a written will at the time of death, it is said that he or she died intestate. When there is no will, it is said that the person died intestate. The probate court overseas cases whether the person died testate or intestate.

If there is a will, the probate court will make sure the will is valid and there the property will be distributed according to the directions in the will. The court grants the legal authority necessary to administer your estate to your executor if you have a will, or if you don't have a will, the court will appoint an administrator for you, such as a family member or private fiduciary.

The probate court will not be involved with bank accounts with two people in joint tenancy, or in money paid under an insurance policy since it's not usually part of the estate.  Currently, estates worth $150,000 or more are subject to probate proceedings in the state of California. 

Attorney and executor fees in probate are paid by the estate when the estate is ready to close.

Mark Ambrose

Wills & Trust

To secure your family’s future, think about organizing your assets with a will or trust. A will or trust organizes your assets so that if something were to happen to you, your family would not have to worry or argue about your assets.!

Read more about wills and trust on our Family Law page