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The first steps of the probate process

After the passing of a loved one, you and other surviving family members may have many steps you need to take to settle the estate. If you believe the estate needs to go through probate, you may be in for a rocky road as the probate process can take a considerable amount of time to complete, and they are often the subject of disputes.

Of course, before you start worrying about who may cause conflict, you may want to understand the first steps of beginning the probate process. By knowing where to start, you may feel more at ease as the process gets underway.

Where to begin

First of all, after the passing of a family member, you will need to determine whether he or she created a will. In a best case scenario, the loved one would have informed you of the existence of this or other planning documents and where you could easily find them. If you do not know where to find the documents, you may want to determine whether any safe places exist, like safety deposit boxes at the bank, and check to see if the documents may have been stored there.

If no will or other estate planning measures exist, the court will consider the estate "intestate," and property distribution will follow California state law.

Filing with the court

Because probate is a legal process, you will need to go through court proceedings. One of the first steps will involve taking the will to the court and filing it. If the will named an executor, that named individual will handle this part of the process as well as any other necessary probate duties.

If the decedent did not appoint an executor in the will or no will exists, the court will go through the process of naming a personal representative for the estate. If you would like to take on this role, you can apply with the court. However, you may want to keep in mind that applying does not guarantee appointment. State law will also play a part in this portion of the process.

The beginning of a long road

These two steps represent only the very tip of the probate process. Many other duties and responsibilities will fall to you if the decedent named you as executor or if you apply to take on the role of administrator. Fortunately, you can receive help along the way by consulting with an attorney.

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