When someone passes away, concerns arise about handling their estate. Hopefully, the individual informed a personal representative that a last will and testament exists. Writing and signing a legal will is part of the estate and probate equation as the document must go through the probate process in a California courtroom.
Wills and probate administration
A probate court oversees the administration of an estate whether there is a will or not. Without a will, California’s interstate laws guide the distribution of assets and the selection of an executor. The court opens the estate during the probate process, and administration begins. The court will determine whether the will is valid before proceeding.
Some estates prove complicated and require many steps to administer. However, other estates could have fewer assets and liabilities. A simplified procedure may become an option when an estate’s value is below $166,250.
Not all assets require probate, though. Property held jointly with rights of survivorship, life insurance policies, joint financial accounts or ones with designated beneficiaries will transfer on death.
Other matters related to probate
The executor and others must understand that estate administration and probate will involve more than distributing assets. Compensating creditors for any outstanding debts becomes a top priority and must occur before distributing any funds or assets to beneficiaries. Taxes require filing on state and federal levels, among other responsibilities. Asset distribution occurs upon providing sufficient proof of settled debts to the probate court.
Someone may contest the will, which could complicate the probate process. Contesting a will is, essentially, a lawsuit brought forth by someone with both legitimate grounds and standing. The legal bar for contesting is high, and the court will rule on the merits as part of the probate and estate administration process.