San Jose and Santa Cruz Probate Administration
The attorneys at Penrose Chun & Gorman LLP provide experienced and efficient representation to clients involved in the probate process in San Jose, Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito Counties. With over 40 years of experience and a dedicated support staff, we have the ability to capably administer estates of all sizes, including estates involving significant assets and complex tax issues.
What is Probate?
The term “probate” is derived from the Latin word probatus meaning “to prove.” Probate refers to the court-supervised process of proving the last will and testament of a deceased person, giving effect to the provisions of that will, and distributing the person’s estate according to the terms of the will. If a person died without a will, their estate is distributed as set forth in California’s intestate succession law.
The purpose of the probate process is to protect the intentions of the deceased, confirm who will serve as the personal representative of the estate, protect the interests of creditors and others who may have claims against the estate, and shield the personal representative against possible claims and lawsuits. Challenges may occur at any time during this process, and may range from disputes over the validity of a will or appointment of the personal representative to challenges to the final distribution of the estate. See our page on Estate Litigation/Trust Litigation for further information on disputes that may arise during the administration of an estate.
What to Expect From the Probate Process in California Courts
The probate process starts with filing a petition with the court. The petition seeks an order determining the date and place of the decedent’s death, appoints a personal representative of the estate, and orders probate of the decedent’s will.
A hearing on the petition is normally scheduled about thirty days after the petition is filed. Depending upon the facts of the case and whether there are any challenges to the will or to the appointment of the personal representative, the hearing may involve the examination of documents and testimony of witnesses.
Once the will is admitted to probate, the authenticity of the will has been “proven” and cannot be attacked except in limited circumstances. The personal representative can begin the process of administering the estate, including preparing and filing an inventory and appraisal of the property to be administered, which may take up to four months or longer.
Notice is given to creditors about the administration of the estate. This notice may be given four months or more from the start of the process, and the notice itself provides the creditors with four months (or longer in some cases) within which to pursue a claim against the estate. It is important to note that the probate process in California takes several months, and the notice and claims period alone can stretch out the probate process to eight months or more, even without any litigated matters or disputes.
After all of the assets have been accounted for and appraised, and all debts and taxes of the estate have been paid, the personal representative petitions the court for a preliminary or final distribution of the estate to the persons entitled according to the will or California’s laws regarding intestate succession.
Seek Representation from an Experienced Santa Cruz Probate Lawyer
Serving as the personal representative of a decedent’s estate involves many fiduciary duties and responsibilities. It is important to seek the guidance and representation of an experienced probate attorney who specializes in probate administration and estate planning matters. Contact Penrose Chun & Gorman LLP to schedule a consultation.