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
The Probating of Kentucky Wills


Related articles

How to Find Out if My Father Left Me Any Assets

When an individual dies, his assets pass to his beneficiaries according to the terms outlined in his will. If he did not leave behind a will, he died “intestate,” and the probate court in the county where he lived distributes his remaining assets according to state law. As the child of the deceased, you may be entitled to an inheritance regardless of whether your father left behind a will. The will's executor or the probate court must notify you of any inheritance you are scheduled to receive after your father's death. The probate process, however, is not perfect and beneficiaries do not always receive proper notice of their inheritance. If you suspect you may be entitled to a portion of your deceased father's estate, you have several options, depending on whether your father left a will.

Tennessee Estate Laws on Intestacy

A Tennessee resident who dies without a will leaves behind an intestate estate. Tennessee intestate succession statutes determine how such an estate is divided among the descendants of the deceased, who is known as the decedent. Only property that is owned solely by the decedent is governed by intestate succession statutes. Property left in a trust or property that a decedent owns jointly with survivorship rights is not subject to intestate succession.

The Inheritance Statute in Washington, DC

Washington, D.C. has enacted the Uniform Probate Code, a law drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws that is designed to harmonize the probate laws of the various states. The Uniform Probate Code governs the distribution of inheritances bequeathed by people who resided in the District of Columbia when they died.

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

Related articles

Laws on Probate of a Will in Canada

Probate laws in Canada differ somewhat from province to province. The basic structure of the probate process remains ...

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 ...

How to Prove That I Am an Heir in Probate Proceedings in Texas

Under Texas law, at least two circumstances exist in which you may be required to prove your relationship to a ...

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 ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED