Understanding the Probate Process
Dealing with the loss of a loved one can be difficult enough without the added stress of San Diego probate. However, the family of the recently departed is often accountable for guaranteeing that the decedent’s assets are handled with care and responsibility. At Horizon Real Estate, we understand that the more help you receive to ease you through this process, the better. Below is a simple yet accurate account of how the basic probate process is handled in the San Diego probate court system.
After the loss of a loved one, an executor or administrator is appointed by the probate court to oversee the estate. The individual who represents the estate will be determined by the decedent’s will. If there is not a will, the probate courts appoint a representative, often an heir, relative or friend. Once a representative is appointed, the probate process can begin.
To start the process, the representative usually with the help of their San Diego probate attorney files a petition for probate to the San Diego probate court. This is the first occasion when notice must be given to all potential heirs and relatives by mail; this contact has to occur at least fifteen days prior to the court hearing date. A notice also must be published in a newspaper that circulates near where your loved one lived during their passing. Although it is a rare occurrence, at the hearing, anyone can contest the will. Your San Diego Probate Attorney will be representing the estate at the hearing. If the will is disputed, the San Diego Probate Judge will schedule future hearings to address the issue. If you’re lucky enough to pass through the hearing without a hitch, the San Diego probate judge can then grant an order to begin the probate process.
Once any issues with the will have been cleared, the judge issues letters to the representative, giving the personal representative the power to administer the estate. Estate administration includes many steps: the assets are inventoried and, if needed, appraised; the decedent’s finals bills and estate expenses are paid; and income and estate taxes are filed and paid. This process often takes at least four months to complete, if not longer. To appraise the assets, help is usually needed. The fair market value of the estate assets are often identified by an independent San Diego probate appraiser referred to as the San Diego probate referee, appointed by the courts to ensure assets are not over-or undersold. At the same time, all creditors are given four months to submit their claims to the estate. These claims can be accepted or rejected by the estate’s representative.
Once all discrepancies have been settled, the representative submits a final accounting in report form to the San Diego probate court for approval. A final distributing petition is filed and notice (referred to as a Notice of Proposed Action) is once again given to all of the relevant heirs and relatives. To conclude the process, the assets are distributed to the heirs and the final fees are paid.
This simple review has given you a basic understanding of the process of probate in the San Diego probate court system. Although probate can be overwhelming, there are professionals who can help to smoothly guide you through the entire process. As expected, all probate circumstances are not exactly alike. I recommend that you work with qualified professionals such as your attorney, your tax advisor and, when there is real property in a San Diego probate, a probate real estate expert, like me. I’m Kim Ward, the founder of Horizon Real Estate and developer of ProbateAndTrustHelp.com. I have been in the probate field in San Diego for over ten years, and I can refer you to other industry professionals who can help. A quick call to my office at 619-741-0111 can help get you the answers you need.