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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

California Probate 101: The Basics

March 4, 2013

Probate is a process that can differ from state to state. That means that the laws that apply here in Northern California might not be the same as other places. With such variance in what applies, it’s just good sense to work with an estate planning attorney in Sacramento who will be up-to-date on all of the most recent information. That said, there are some probate basics that everyone should understand.

The Will

Probate in Sacramento, El Dorado and Placer County is a court process to legally administer and close out an estate. Unless you have specific trusts in place, your estate will likely go through this process, even if you have a will. This is surprising news to some folks who thought that having a will would take care of everything and avoid the probate process in Northern California. Really, though, probate is used to ensure that the will is valid, as well as give your executor legal authority to distribute your assets according to the will.


If you have outstanding debts, the probate process is also a time for them to be paid. The court will take a look at your assets and debts and determine how those debts are to be paid. These debts are typically paid before your heirs receive their share of what is left. In some cases, a Fair Oaks probate attorney can help you to reduce the number of assets that are vulnerable to being used for this purpose through the use of trusts.

Executor of the Estate

The person named as the executor (which may also be chosen by the courts, especially if you don’t have a will) is charged with gathering together all of your information to present during probate in California. This means that all of your accounts, assets, and debts need to be listed and submitted to the court in a timely manner. The executor will also be responsible for overseeing the distribution of your estate and for making sure that the court’s decisions are carried out.

Probate Lawyer

Probate lawyers in Sacramento County, El Dorado County and Placer County take on a number of roles in the process, one of which is acting as the executor of the will. Some families prefer to have a professional take on these responsibilities, although there is a cost for the service. Even if there is an executor, though, hiring a probate lawyer in Northern California is a good idea, as he or she will be familiar with the process and can therefore save the heirs considerable time, frustration, and money for the estate.

The Process

Again, the probate process can vary, but in California it will generally include the following:

  • Papers will be filed by the executor or lawyer to start probate
  • The will (if there is one) is presented along with a list of assets and debts
  • Notification of the death is made to relatives and creditors
  • The executor manages the assets for the estate for the duration of the probate process

Speak To A California Probate Attorney

If you are facing the probate process after the loss of a loved one, we encourage you to contact our Fair Oaks probate attorneys to begin the process of closing out his or her estate. Through compassionate guidance and hands-on legal help, we will ensure that your loved one’s affairs are properly taken care of so you can focus on your family and the healing process. To schedule a complimentary consultation, simply call our Fair Oaks probate attorneys at (916) 241-9661.

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