How long does probate take in California?

If your loved one dies without a living trust, chances are their estate will have to go through the probate process. Probate is the legal process that is required to manage the estate of a deceased individual and to distribute their assets. 

The probate process is governed by the statutes and laws passed by the state’s legislature and are delineated in California’s Probate Code. If the deceased left a will, the executor named in that will should get the process started. If there is no will or the executor is unable to discharge their duties, the court will have to appoint an “administrator” of the estate to oversee the process.

The question of how long probate takes in California centers around whether the deceased left a will. Dying without a will means the individual in question has died “intestate.” Although California law does provide a method as to how assets can pass under the intestate ruling, the complexity of the deceased’s estate can have an effect on the timeline when it comes to completing the mandatory steps involved in the probate process.

Plan on 12 to 18 months

How long probate takes in California is dependent on a lot of factors, including:

  • the complexity of the deceased’s estate
  • The executor or appointed personal representative
  • Presence or absence of a valid will

The more complicated the situation, the longer it will take to settle the estate.

If the deceased had a will in place when they died, it’s up to the executor named in the will to start the process by filing a document called “Petition for Probate.” Once the process has started, it typically takes 12 months to 18 months to settle. Some cases can be completed in as little as 9 months, but this doesn’t occur very often.

If the estate is complicated or if there’s no valid will, the process can take up to 2 years to reach a conclusion. Working with an attorney that specializes in the probate process can be a real asset to your case if there is no will or if the will is being contested.

A probate attorney can guide you through the process by anticipating and eliminating any risks involving larger estate distributions, creditor claims, questions about ownership of assets and property, and undue influence of the decedent.

And plan ahead for your family

The process of probate in California can end up being very technical, time-consuming, and costly, especially if the deceased died without a will.

By creating a comprehensive estate plan which includes a living trust plus a power of attorney and advanced health care directive, you’ll be helping your family to avoid having to go through the probate process after your death.

Learn more at How to set up a living trust.