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Benefits of Probate

For a lot of individuals, they won't have much familiarity with the term "probate" until someone they care about has passed away and they are named in the will or otherwise a beneficiary under California's laws of intestate succession (when someone dies without a will).

Probate is when a California court supervises the processes that transfer the legal property from a decedent's estate to his or her beneficiaries – after all debts against the estate are paid. Probate is not always necessary, particularly in instances where the person that died did not have any property to transfer. However, the decedent's survivors may decide to open probate if the deceased owed money or if it is necessary to set a deadline for creditors to file claims against the estate.

As if it's not difficult enough to lose someone you love, shortly afterwards it will be necessary to tie up the decedent's loose ends and distribute their personal belongings and assets to their beneficiaries. While probate can take up to a year or longer if someone contests the will, there are certain tangible benefits, especially for those who stand to benefit from the estate, some of which include:

  • The process is supervised by the court in order to ensure that all administration procedures are followed in accordance with state laws.
  • Heirs receive automatic notice when certain petitions are filed, including the petition for the appointment of the personal representative, and the final petition when it's time to close the estate.
  • Heirs receive a Notice of Proposed Action if the personal representative wants to sell property.
  • All heirs receive legal notices about the probate hearing, which validates the will, and appoints a personal representative to administrate the estate.
  • Once the will is filed with the court, the will is available for public viewing and anyone can purchase a copy.
  • If the personal representative takes longer than 18 months to complete the probate, then he or she must file a status report and explain to the court why it's taking so long and how much time it should take.
  • If the personal representative fails to report to the court, then the beneficiaries have the right to ask the court to have the representative file an accounting or take actions to close probate.
  • If the beneficiaries believe that the executor or administrator (personal representative) is mismanaging the estate, they can ask the court to have him or her removed from their duties.

In essence, one of the greatest advantages of probate is that as an heir or beneficiary, you can have peace of mind knowing that whoever is administrating the estate must comply with California's State laws and they must answer to the probate court. The executor or administrator's actions are court supervised; therefore, you can take some comfort in the fact that the personal representative's actions must follow standard procedures and follow the explicit directions set forth in the will. However, if the decedent died intestate (without a will), then the personal representative (administrator) must distribute the assets in accordance with California's intestate succession laws.

For further information about how probate can be a good thing, contact a Los Angeles County probate attorney from Mary E. Mullin, Attorney at Law to schedule your free case evaluation!