When a California resident dies, that person’s estate may need to go through probate. This ensures that the deceased individual’s will is valid, a person’s assets can be inventoried and that outstanding bills can be paid. At the time a probate case is opened, an executor will be appointed to represent the estate. The executor could be a spouse, a family friend or an attorney. If the deceased person appointed an executor in his or her will, that person will usually fulfill the role.

Otherwise, a representative can be appointed by a judge to oversee an estate during the probate process. This could also occur if the appointed executor passes on or doesn’t want to fulfill that role anymore. If an individual does not fulfill his or her obligations as the executor of the estate, that person could be subject to civil penalties.

For instance, failing to begin probate proceedings at all might be considered to be a negligent act. A case could also proceed on the basis that the appointed executor breached his or her fiduciary duty to the estate. This may be especially true if an individual failed to begin probate proceedings in an effort to keep a deceased person’s property. Depending on the size and complexity of the estate, it may be possible to go through probate without any legal guidance.

Those who are involved in probate disputes may preserve their inheritance by ending disputes as quickly as possible. Family members also risk straining relationships by allowing disputes to go on for too long. An attorney may be able to help resolve any issues that come up after a loved one passes. In some cases, disputes might be settled without the need for a court hearing or other legal proceedings that can extend probate.