As an Orange County probate lawyer, I’m often asked, “what is probate and how does the process work?”

Without making things too complicated, Orange County probate is an official proceeding used to wrap up a person’s legal and financial affairs upon their passing. Here in California, the probate process usually takes at least 12 months, and in some cases it can take years before it is resolved. That’s because the court, as well as the executor of the will, must go through many steps before the estate is released.

Yet to get started with the Orange County probate process, the executor named in the will (also known as the person who will be in charge of the bills and the property) will need to officially petition the court to be appointed as such.   The court will also notify the other heirs as well so that anyone with an objection can come and state those to the judge. Once the court approves the executor, he or she must then provide a list of the deceased’s assets to the court, pay the bills associated with it and handle the rest of the affairs of the estate.

During the Orange County probate process, the court may also have to determine the value of the estate. An appraiser will be appointed to get a fair market value of the property s as well as other debts. This can sometimes cause problems, especially when the value is significantly less than what the heirs are expecting. The fee for this service is charged to the estate by the courts, and must also be paid by the executor.

Once this portion of Orange County probate is complete, another petition needs to be filed with the court asking that the estate be distributed to the heirs. The judge will then release the assets to the heirs to be divided, and in some cases the judge will step in to divide the assets if there are disputes. Upon the completion of this process, the executor needs to prepare the final tax return for the estate and their duty is considered finished.

And although Orange County probate may sound painless and simple in this brief article, it is a rather complicated proceeding.  That is why an attorney is absolutely necessary when dealing with the Orange County probate court.   Therefore if you are an executor of a will and getting ready to file, I encourage you to call our office at (949) 260-1400 so we can we can walk you through the proper steps you must take and help you along the way of settling your loved ones estate.