How does the probate process work in California?

In California, if a person has a will when he or she dies, the probate process in California begins with the executor who is named in the will filing a petition in probate court, seeking appointment. If a person dies without a will (called dying intestate), a relative or other person starts the process, and the court appoints an administrator to handle the estate. Personal representative is another term used to describe the executor or administrator of an estate.

Once appointed, the personal representative collects all the assets and property of the estate, pays all debts and expenses, and after court approval, distributes the rest of the estate to the beneficiaries. If there are disputes or disagreements among the beneficiaries or with the personal representative along the way, they will be resolved by the probate court.

Probate is required for estates over $150,000 in California. More streamlined procedures are available for smaller estates.