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What is probate?

After losing a loved one, it’s pretty likely the last thing you want to think about is a seemingly opaque but often required legal process called “probate.” It’s not as scary as it sounds. Probate is simply the process by which after someone passes away their assets are transferred to their beneficiaries, often family or friends. Working with the right experts, it can be much easier than you might imagine.

Is probate always necessary?

After losing a loved one, it’s pretty likely the last thing you want to think about is a seemingly
Not all assets must go through the probate process, but it’s typically necessary if the decedent owned assets solely in their name worth over a $150,000 and no “living trust” is in place.

How does probate work in California?

Probate procedures vary state by state. In California, it’s useful to know a few terms. The person who passed away, in the probate process, is referred to as “the decedent.” The people inheriting their assets are referred to as “the beneficiaries.” The person in charge of distributing the assets to the beneficiaries is called the “personal representative.” If the decedent specifically named in their will who they wanted to manage the distribution of their assets, this person is known as the “executor.”

The probate process has multiple steps. Below is a broad overview of them. Each can be complicated in practice, so you’ll likely want to work with an experienced probate attorney.

  • Determine if the estate must go to probate
  • If the estate is required to go to probate, petition with the court in the county where the decedent lived within 30 days of their death. The will, if there is one, must also be filed. This begins the probate process.
  • A court hearing is scheduled, typically in 4-6 weeks.
  • The court will determine the personal representative.
  • The personal representative determines the beneficiaries and notifies them.
  • The representative inventories all assets (real estate, bank accounts, investments, etc.) and notifies the court of their value. 
  • The personal representative notifies creditors 
  • The personal representative pays valid debts and required taxes
  • The personal representative can petition for the probate process to be closed. Typically, reaching this stage takes 4-12 months. 

When can the personal representative sell property?

There are several circumstances where the sale of property may be necessary. For example, if the sale is necessary to pay debts and taxes, specified gifts to beneficiaries, the expenses of estate administration. Property can also be sold if the sale is in the best interest of the estate and the beneficiaries, if the will specifies the property should be sold, or if the will gives authority to sell the property.

How can estate property be sold?

The most common way of selling a probate property is through a real estate broker who specializes in probate in a private sale. Estate property can also be sold in a public auction. The sale price must be at least 90% of the appraised value from within the past year. A “notice of sale” must be published, typically by an attorney or broker, prior to the sale of property. A personal representative may sign an “exclusive right to sell” contract with a probate real estate agent for 90 days, that may also be extended in periods of 90 days. In the case of a probate sale, an offer must be accompanied by a 10% deposit.

How can working with a realtor who specializes in probate law help?

s both a licensed attorney and realtor, I have a unique understanding of all aspects of the probate process that relate to selling estate property. Having worked in the area of probate sales for more than a decade, I not only help clients comply with all areas of the law but can also assist with renovation, staging, and most importantly, ensuring your loved one’s property is sold painlessly for the highest possible offer.

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