Five Steps To A Speedier Probate

Most executors are highly motivated to get through probate as quickly as possible, to be free of the added responsibility and to gain some closure on the experience of losing their loved one.

How long does probate take? That depends. A straightforward probate with no contested assets can usually be wrapped up in six to 12 months. A complex probate could go on for years. Fortunately there are steps you can take to avoid unnecessary delays:

  1. Meet all filing deadlines. Missing deadlines can trigger additional court appearances, making it impossible to move forward until the matter is resolved. It may also prompt other family members to challenge your competency as executor.
  1. Promptly notify all creditors. Under California law, a creditor must file a claim within 60 days of notice or four months from the issuance of Letters of Administration, whichever comes first. A delay in notifying creditors will prolong the process; failure to notify them leaves the estate vulnerable to unexpected-and time-consuming-claims for as long as the probate is open.
  1. Get a complete, appraised inventory. At the same time you are notifying creditors, begin marshaling the estate's assets and getting them appraised. You can inventory cash assets yourself. The court will appoint a probate referee to inventory and appraise the other assets.
  1. Maintain complete and accurate accounting of every dollar spent. Barring any complications, this will enable you to file the final report and accounting with the Probate Court-and close the estate- as soon as the creditor claim period has expired.
  1. Hire a reputable probate attorney. The surest way to avoid delays is to entrust the process to an experienced professional who understands the complexities of California probate law. A probate attorney will "quarterback" the entire process on your behalf. All you need to do is respond to his or her requests for specific documents. You'll be relieved of paperwork, protected from time-consuming mistakes-and free to return to focusing on your everyday life.

Matthew Yu is an attorney of the Law Office of Matthew C. Yu, located in Torrance, California. His practice emphasizes probate, conservatorships and living trusts. Matthew's clients include businesses, families and individuals throughout Southern California. He can be reached at (310) 986-2364 or by email at: myu@matthewyulaw.com.