Filing Wills in California

By Beverly Bird

California doesn’t require that every will be filed with the court. It’s a community property state. If the decedent was married and owned no separate property, such as premarital or inherited assets, probate isn’t necessary. An abbreviated probate process is available if the decedent’s estate is worth less than $100,000. All probate processes begin with filing the will with the court.

Step 1

Access Form DE-111, a petition to open probate, from the state’s judicial website. Fill in the petition, explaining who died, the extent of the assets he left and naming his heirs. His heirs are not necessarily those named to inherit property in the will. They're his immediate relatives who would inherit from him under state law had the decedent not left a will. Often, the decedent's beneficiaries will also be his heirs.

Step 2

Take the completed petition and the decedent’s original will to the superior court clerk in the county where the decedent lived at the time of his death. You must do this within a month of the date of death. File the petition and will with the clerk. The clerk will give you a date and time for a hearing at which a judge will either accept or reject the will for probate. The hearing is usually within about 45 days.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Step 3

Access Form DE-121 from California’s judicial website. This is a notice to the decedent’s heirs, beneficiaries, executor and known creditors, advising them that you’ve submitted the decedent’s will to the court. Complete the form and make a copy for each person you’re putting on notice. Attach a copy of the petition for probate to each notice.

Step 4

Arrange to have someone mail the notices to each beneficiary, heir, known creditor and the will's executor. You can do this if the decedent did not name you as executor, and if you're not his heir or beneficiary. Otherwise, a disinterested third party must do it, that is, someone not related to the decedent, not mentioned in the will and to whom the decedent did not owe money.

Step 5

Ask the person who will mail the notices to complete and sign the second page of the original notice in the space titled “Proof of Service by Mail.” After mailing the notices, file the original with the same court clerk who accepted your petition and the will.

Step 6

Attend the hearing. Between the time you filed the petition and the time of the hearing, a probate examiner will have reviewed the will and your petition. The judge will either accept the will or reject it, based on the examiner’s report regarding its validity and the completeness of your petition. If the examiner recommends that the judge accept the will, and if none of the heirs, beneficiaries or creditors object to it, the judge will officially open probate.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Laws on Probate of a Will in Canada


Related articles

The Average Probate Processing Times for Wills in Massachusetts

The average time required for the probate process depends on everything going smoothly -- if there are any complications, the time frame can increase significantly. In Massachusetts, probate is usually completed within a year of the date of the testator’s death, though most of the work is generally accomplished within the first nine months. However, complex estates can take up to two and a half years or longer. Several factors are involved, each with their own deadlines.

How Long Is Somebody the Executor of a Will?

The executor of a will is in office from the time she opens probate and is sworn in until the court closes the estate at the end of probate. This can take anywhere from a few months in a state that offers a simplified process for wills, to three or more years for complicated estates. Several situations can make the probate process take longer.

Time Limitations in California State Inheritance Laws

Many deadlines follow a person's death as his estate is being probated in California. Probate is the process by which courts make sure that a deceased person's debts are paid and property distributed to his heirs. Deadlines in this process must be satisfied in order for the process to proceed smoothly. Probate only applies if the combined value of the decedent's real and personal property are greater than $150,000 at the time of death. If the estate's assets are less than this, these deadlines are irrelevant.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

The Probating of Kentucky Wills

Kentucky’s probate process is relatively simple compared to some other states. If the person named as executor in the ...

Duties of the Executor of a Will in Texas

Wills often nominate an executor to administer the deceased’s estate after he dies. Once officially appointed by a ...

Wills & Probate in North Carolina

If a will is valid and there are no objections to it, and if the estate owes no taxes to either North Carolina or the ...

How to Contest a Will in Minnesota

You must be an heir or a beneficiary of the deceased to have standing to contest a will. An heir is someone who would ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED