Probate is a court supervised process of settling a deceased individual’s legal and financial affairs. In California, probate is required when an individual dies with assets having a gross value of more than $150,000 titled in their name alone. In very broad terms, the probate process can be summarized in three steps. First, an individual is appointed by the court to act on behalf of the deceased individual’s estate and tasked with inventorying and appraising all assets and liabilities. Next, all valid and legally enforceable debts of the deceased individual are handled. Finally, if there is any property remaining, it is distributed to the named beneficiaries if there is a Will or to the heirs at law if the deceased individual did not have a Will.
In California, probate administration is a public proceeding that is expensive and slow. Through proper estate planning, however, probate can be avoided.