Historically, probate described the process of proving that the requirements of creating a will were satisfied. In modern practice, however, the term is commonly used to describe the entire court process of administering a deceased person’s estate. Probate in California is often required whether a person died with or without a will. When probating a will, a number of notices are required to “interested persons.” The notices give such individuals the opportunity to state any claims they may have to the decedent's property before the assets are ultimately distributed under the instructions of the will.
Constitutional Requirement of Notice
Although California’s notice requirements for probate proceedings are found in the California Probate Code, these state laws exist because of the United States Constitution. Under the Constitution, a person cannot be deprived of his interest in property until he has received notice, reasonably calculated under the circumstances to give actual notice of the court process, and been given the opportunity to be heard before a court.
Notifying “Interested Persons”
Only “interested persons,” sometimes referred to in California statutes as “persons interested in the estate,” are entitled to notice of probate. “Interested persons” include heirs, beneficiaries and creditors. An heir is a person who is related to the deceased person. “Beneficiary,” in this context, is broadly defined under California law to include anyone the will names as a person who will receive property upon the death of the will maker. A creditor is one who was owed money by the deceased person. The person responsible for carrying out the instructions in the will and following all probate procedures is called an executor. It is the executor’s duty to provide all interested persons with required notices. If the court determines that a required notice was not properly given, the court has the discretion to order additional service and may extend the period of time in which notice must be provided.
Requesting Special Notice
Any “interested person” may make a written request to receive notice of the filing of any appraisal or inventory report of the deceased person’s property with the court. This type of notice is called a “special notice.” Special notice can be requested any time after the court appoints a person to serve as executor of the will. The person who makes a special request must provide the personal representative or attorney for the personal representative with a copy of the request, either in person or by mail. After providing a copy of the request for special notice, the interested party must notify the court that the request was delivered.
Notice must usually be provided by mail. If the recipient of the notice lives in the United States, it must be mailed by first class, certified, registered or express mail. If the recipient lives outside of the U.S., notice must be delivered by air mail. The court considers the notice requirement satisfied when the notice is mailed, not when the recipient actually receives the notice. As an alternative to mailing notice, it can be personally delivered to the recipient.