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The Probate Department of the Court handles decedents’ estates, trusts, and conservatorships. The Probate Department also hears petitions to establish the fact of birth, death, and marriage as well as elder abuse petitions.
Probate is a proceeding in which an executor (if there is a will) or an administrator (if there is no will) is appointed by the court as personal representative to collect the assets, pay the debts and expenses, and then distribute the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries (those who are entitled to inherit), all under the supervision of the court. The entire proceeding will take from approximately nine months to one in half years from the time of filing to the final distribution.
If you have the legal right to inherit personal property, like money in a bank account or stocks, the entire estate is worth $150,000 or less, and there is no real property (land) in the estate you may not have to go to court.
There is a simplified process that can sometimes be used to transfer the property to your name. This process generally cannot be used for real property like a house. The Affidavit Procedure for Collection of Transfer of Personal Property can be found in the Probate Code under Section 13100. Check with a qualified probate attorney as to whether this procedure is appropriate.
If the deceased person’s property is worth more than $150,000, you must go to court and start a probate case.
To do this, you must file one of these petitions forms (DE-111).
Petition for Letters Testamentary
Petition for Letters of Administration with Will Annexed
Petition for Letters of Administration
Petition for Letters of Special Administration
You may be able to use a simple form ( DE-221 ) called a Spousal Property Petition, to get a court order that says what your share of the community property is and what part of your deceased spouses’ share of community and separate property belongs to you.
The person who has the will at the time of the person’s death is the custodian of the will.
Pursuant to Probate Code Section 8200 the custodian has 30 says to lodge the original will with the Probate Clerk’s Office:
Hall of Justice
Family Law, Probate and Adoption Division
600 Union Avenue
Fairfield CA 94533
The custodian must also send a copy for the Will to the Executor. If the custodian does not do these things, he or she can be sued for damages caused.
If there is no will and a court case is needed, the court will appoint an Administrator to manage the estate during the probate process. The person who wants to be the administrator must file a Petition for Letters of Administration. The Administrator usually is the spouse, domestic partner or close relative of the deceased person.
Total estate is $50,000 or less, real property only. You can reference Probate Code Section 13200. You must file with the court but no order is required.
Contact a qualified probate attorney to review your specific situation
and to advise you whether a probate is necessary. An attorney can give
you detailed instructions as to how to change the title to assets and
collect benefits, and assist in preparing any documents you may need.
Most importantly, an attorney can represent you in court if a probate is
necessary, and make sure you do not violate your fiduciary duty to the
beneficiaries. You can contact the Solano County Bar Association Lawyer
Referral Service at (707) 422-5087.
Guardianship is a court process by which a person other than a parent is given custody of a child or authority over a child’s property. Appointment as a guardian requires the filing of a petition and approval by the court. If the court appoints you as a guardian for a child, you will assume important duties and obligations. You will become responsible to the court. It is essential that you clearly understand your duties and responsibilities as a guardian. If you have any questions, you should consult with an attorney who is qualified to advise you on these matters. A Guardianship packet is located in the Family Law and Probate Division Clerks office, in either Fairfield or Vallejo.
A legal guardian is an adult to whom the court has given authority and
responsibility to provide care for a child, or to manage the child’s
assets, or both.
Relatives, friends of the family, or other interested persons may be considered as potential legal guardians.