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Probate and Trust Administration

What is California Probate?

Bay Area Probate Litigation Lawyers Answer Questions About California Probate Law

The many complex state laws that govern the probate process can make the act of sorting through an estate daunting. California imposes many requirements upon beneficiaries and fiduciaries alike. Fortunately, our probate litigation attorneys understand California probate laws and can guide clients through the process. As a certified specialist, attorney Charles Triay must stay up to date with the state’s evolving probate laws. Our California probate litigation lawyer can let you know when someone is unfairly abusing the system for their own benefit. We can then work with you to rectify the situation.


If you have any question about California probate law, contact our attorneys online or call (510) 330-2203 today!


What Happens During Probate in California?

If a deceased loved one left behind a will, it should name an executor who will start the process. Without a will, a family member may ask the court to be the administrator for the estate, or the family may appoint a professional to administer the intestate estate. Anyone who may be a beneficiary should receive notice of the estate in probate.

The person in charge of the estate must gather the deceased individual’s assets, pay any debts, and file taxes on an estate. The executor or administrator must also file all accountings of the estate with the probate court.

The executor or administrator will file a final petition for distribution of the assets. A hearing date will be set and a judge will sign for the final distribution. Finally, the assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries and the executor or administrator will file a declaration for final discharge.

These are just the basics. The process can be significantly more complicated than this. Our probate lawyers can answer any questions about the probate process.

How Can I Skip or Speed up the Probate Process in California?

California provides some shortcuts for beneficiaries in certain situations so they can quickly receive property left by a deceased loved one. Some ways you can make the probate process easier or eliminate it altogether include:

  • Spousal Property Petition – When an individual dies, that person’s surviving spouse can use the spousal property petition to transfer assets. This process takes significantly less time and with lower costs than probate. The surviving spouse may receive any amount of assets through this transfer.
  • Declaration – If a loved one has personal property worth $150,000 or less, heirs may receive this property through a declaration. This speeds up the probate process, but it has limitations. The process has a 40-day waiting period after the decedent’s death. Additionally, beneficiaries may not receive real property, such as land or buildings.

These are not the only methods that exist to shorten or eliminate the probate process in California. Talk to a probate lawyer to find out if you are eligible for a probate shortcut.

Where Can I Find a Probate Litigation Lawyer in the Bay Area?

Probate can be a difficult process. This can become even more complicated if a beneficiary contests the accountings or otherwise believes the probate is unjust. Our attorneys are always ready to assist with California probate law. Our probate litigation attorney fees allow us to work hourly or through contingency fee agreements. 


Call our law office today at (510) 330-2203 to find out how we can assist you.

FAQ Learn More About Probate Litigation

  • Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person’s last will and testament or according to intestate law. Certain trusts only go into effect upon the death of the testator, and may therefore be part of a probate administration. California probate courts oversee probate administration and probate litigation.

  • Probate litigation is the term for a lawsuit when a party, such as an heir, beneficiary, creditor, third party or omitted spouse contests a will. Probate litigation also includes charges against fiduciaries of trusts or estates, or creditors’ claims against an estate.

  • There are several different reasons for contesting a will. For example, claims of undue influence and lack of capacity are common causes for probate litigation. Some individuals may argue that the will is defective, or that the estate trustee is breaching a fiduciary duty. If you are an omitted spouse or if your spouse leaves you less than required by California law, you may have a claim against the estate as part of your spousal rights.

  • A fiduciary duty is the obligation to act honestly, fairly and in good faith when handling the deceased person’s estate. There are multiple fiduciary duties that executors, administrators and trustees are legally required to follow, including keeping proper accountings of all investments, as well as money going in and out of the trust or estate. Violation of this duty or poor performance in administrating the estate may result in legal action by the estate’s beneficiaries.

  • Just as in all types of civil litigation, the law allows you to represent yourself in a probate proceeding. However, we strongly advise having a seasoned probate litigation lawyer handle your case to ensure that California probate law upholds your best interests.
  • Even in death, a person is liable for their debts. For example, creditors may bring claims against a person’s estate after their death to receive payment.

  • A codicil is a document that makes small changes to the terms of a last will and testament. An individual may use codicils when they want to amend their last wishes without having to create an entirely new will. A codicil will only be legally valid and enforceable if executed in the same manner as a will. Codicils are particularly useful upon remarriage, additional children born, or new property acquired by an estate.

  • If a person dies without a will, then California intestacy laws will dictate the division of their estates to the heirs at law. These laws will then distribute property and assets depending on the marital status, number of children and surviving relatives of the deceased individual.