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California Probate Checklist

After a loved one passes away, it is oftentimes quite stressful and anxiety-inducing. If you are named as an executor, this stress and anxiety may increase exponentially, especially since almost anyone can be named as an executor, even if they have no formal training or experience with the probate process. In an effort to help you during this difficult time, we created a California probate checklist to highlight some of the key steps in the process. If you think you may need our services, you can schedule a free initial consultation with an expert probate lawyer today.

Requirements to file for probate in CA

The basic requirements to file for probate in California include:

· The decedent resided in California when they passed away;

· The decedent did not have a valid trust; and

· The decedent died owning more than $150,000 worth of assets

What documents will I need for probate?

There are three core documents you must have in order to file a petition to probate in California. 

Those documents include:

1) The petition form;

2) The decedent’s will (if one is available);

3) A copy of the death certificate (depending on the situation)

What are the first steps to start probate?

The following is a list of important first steps you need to take to initiate the probate process in California. This probate checklist addressing California assets can assist in your decision on whether to designate a friend or family member of your executor or whether to use a trained professional.

Please be advised that the California probate checklist below is just a summary and by no means comprehensive in nature. There are, in fact, an array of additional steps and a period of time that will likely need to be taken to fully administer an estate. The checklist below is a general overview focused primarily at the beginning phase of the probate process.

1.       File Petition for Appointment: Upon the death of the testator, the first duty of that person is to file a petition for probate. This document includes a copy of the will and the decedent’s death certificate and must be filed with the California Superior Court in the county where the deceased person was living at the time of their death. Included in the petition is a request to be named executor. Generally, the person named in the will is appointed by the court as executor, and the court then issues the official documentation called Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration that allows the executor to access the decedent’s property.

2.       Provide Formal Notice of Petition: When the petition for probate is filed with the court, a hearing will need to be held with the probate court. Typically, the court clerk schedules this hearing, and it will usually take place within 30 days. In addition, the notice of hearing needs to be published at least three times in a local newspaper. The executor is required to complete these steps. In addition, they must mail a copy of the notice to everyone named in the will, along with the legal heirs (close family members) of the deceased.

3.       Inventory Estate Assets: An executor is required to inventory all the property belonging to the estate, which typically includes bank accounts, personal property, real estate, and securities such as stocks and bonds.

4.       Manage the Probate Assets: Once inventoried, an executor needs to manage the assets and determine which beneficiary will inherit what, in accordance with the terms of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament.

5.       Locate and Pay Creditors: Under California law, an executor is required to provide notice to any potential creditors who may be owed money from the estate. In California, creditors are provided four months to file claims for outstanding debts in probate court.


As you can see, probate is a complex, multi-step process that requires juggling competing priorities, filing deadlines, effective communication with heirs and beneficiaries, and strong management skills. If you are in need of assistance, Codi M. Dada is the probate attorney you need. As an experienced Marin County probate lawyer, Codi M. Dada understands how complex the probate process can be, which is one of the reasons he created the California probate checklist above. To schedule a time to speak with Mr. Dada and his legal team, fill out a quick contact form on this page.

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