In an earlier post we described what probate is and that it only applies to assets titled in the name of the decedent at the time of her death.  Now we want to discuss how to start the probate process (it’s just a court process after all).

Handling a California probate can be summed up in one word–procedure.  It is a procedural monster that requires strict compliance with the rules of probate.  Some of the rules are easy to find and others are not, but complying with the rules is the only way to successfully navigate a probate.

Probate starts with a “Petition for Probate”.  A Petition is just a document that starts the ball rolling by asking the court for relief.  Here, in California, the Petition for Probate (Form DE-111) is meant to ask the Court to accept the decedent’s Will as being a good and valid Will and appoint an executor to act as the decedent’s personal representative (if there is no Will then the personal representative is referred to as the Administrator rather than Executor). 

The good news is that the Petition for Probate is a form document. The bad news is that it’s not as easy to prepare correctly as one might think when first looking it over. But it’s not too difficult either once you understand the process a bit better.  The key to the initial petition is to read each section carefully and mark all sections that apply.

And you will need a few other forms as well: such as the Duties and Liability of the Personal Representative, Letters, Order, Notice of Petition to Administer Estate, and Confidential Supplement.  (See our prior post listing many probate forms.)  There may be a local form or two that each local court of a particular California county requires.  This varies by location and you should check with your local court for any filing instructions—or check the court’s website where they typically list local forms. 

DISCLAIMER: We are not intending to provide you with legal advice in this blog, we are only presenting general information relating to probate procedure.  Every case may vary based on the facts and circumstances of your particular case.  You should always discuss your case with a California lawyer before filing a probate in California.