Probate Administration in California

Are you the person holding the Will of a newly deceased person?
Have you been named as an Executor in a Will? 
Were you appointed by the court to be an Administrator due to the absence of a Will?

If so, you have some serious responsibilities ahead of you. You are fully responsible for the management and distribution of a deceased person’s entire estate — and there are family members and/or charities depending on you!

Often when people find themselves in these positions, they find the process is complicated and come to us for guidance, education and to do the actual court work.

What you can expect as an Executor of a Will or Will-less Estate Probate?

Woman with hands up wondering what to expect as an Executor of a Will or Will-less Estate Probate.

What do I do as an Executor or Administrator?

You will have months of duties that require research, document gathering, documentation, and court filings.

Depending upon the quality of the deceased person’s Estate Plan there may be an Inventory and Appraisal, Notice of Administration to Creditors and payment of all debts, income tax return filing, determination of who gets what property, a Report of Sale and Petition for Order Confirming Sale of Real Property, perhaps file a final estate tax return, a final plan and accounting which is reviewed by a judge at a hearing, and receipt filing.

And… if you make a mistake or miss a court filing, you can be held liable for mismanagement of the estate’s assets!

If this doesn’t seem like fun trying to do all this without an attorney or a great use of your valuable days, remember that  we can help with all of this!

It doesn’t actually cost you anything to hire us to team with you and have us do all the legal filing and verification that you’ll be responsible for. The only money we usually ask for as we begin to handle your Probate Administration case with you is a small deposit to be used for court charges during the administration. We don’t receive our reimbursement fees until the Probate closes.

Are you still wondering what’s actually involved? Here’s an idea of it all.
Feel free to skip this box though, but keep reading below. You may see why else it pays to have us assist you in handling your Administration duties. As the custodian of a Will, when the person dies, you must do the following — and if you fail to do this, you can be sued for damages:

  • Contact the California superior court courthouse to learn where the correct Probate Court clerk’s office is located.
  •  Bring the original Will (if there is one) to this probate Court Clerk’s office— within 30 days of the death.

After you complete this (if you are only the custodian and not the nominated Executor), you may be relieved of your duties.
If you’re the Executor, you have a long road ahead of you.

If there is no Will, there is an extra step as someone needs to petition the court to become the Administrator.
Woman reading papers as a Probate Administrator.
Next the Probate case must begin:

  • Someone, perhaps you, become the Petitioner, filing a the correct Petition for Probate (and possibly more papers) — in the California county where the deceased person lived or owned California property. At this point, a hearing date is set.
  • Give properly served notice of the hearing to all surviving family members — even if there is a Will and they are not named in that Will — and others who may have the right to part of the estate.
  • Publish a notice of the procedure.
  • Undergo paperwork review and correction.
    At this point, if it’s not clear, the Judge assigns a personal representative (aka Administrator or Executor) to continue the process.

If you are that Personal Representative (aka Administrator or Executor)…

  • You must then collect the assets and prepare and file an Inventory and Appraisal — an up-to-date appraisal of the estate’s assets.
  • You must also notify creditors using the Notice of Administration to Creditors and also pay all debts. (You also need to know what debts do not have to be paid!)
  • You must then file a final personal income tax return on behalf of the deceased.
  • The probate court next determines who gets what property and you must file a Report of Sale and Petition for Order Confirming Sale of Real Property.
  • Possibly file a final estate tax return, if the estate earned interest or there was profit in its sale.
  • You must prepare and file a final plan and accounting, which is then reviewed by a judge at a hearing.
  • File all required final receipts to confirm that every party received his, her or its share of the estate’s property and finally you are released.

Some issues you may face

Final Medical Expenses

If the person for whom you are Executor died in a hospital or after any medical expenses you have another issue on your hands: the unsettled hospital and medical bills. These final medical bills are not necessarily just like all the other final expenses. There are various ways to treat those medical expenses depending on the status of the Estate. We can help you determine the best way to handle these final medical expenses with regard to taxes, Probate, and achieving the best results for the Beneficiaries.

Will Contests

When a relative not named in a Will feels entitled to any part of an Estate, that relative can contest the Will.
When anyone at all feels entitled to part of the Estate, he/she can also file a claim and contest the Will.

Will Contests add yet further to your responsibilities as Executor. They require yet more research and several more court filings and appearances.


Administering a will or a will-less Estate requires a good deal of research.

  • Identifying and tracking down all surviving family members, and possible non-members, who may have a right to inherit.
  • Getting a full inventory and appraisal of all items mentioned in a Will, or all of the deceased’s belongings if there is no Will

If you were close to the person whose Estate you’re responsible for, this research becomes even harder. Our team has done this before and is ready and able to step in and get this research done. And then, of course, we know how to track the court dates and process, so no filings are missed.


Perhaps you have heard that as Executor of an Estate, you can be paid. This is true — to an extent. You can be reimbursed for the legitimate out-of-pocket expenses that you incur while performing your duties. California also allows for you to be paid by the estate for your management duties. Your statutory fee is usually generous and it is the same fee as the attorney is paid at the conclusion of the estate. Each party also may be entitled to “extraordinary fees” usually calculated on an hourly basis for additional work such as the sale of real estate during the probate.