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  • Wendi Gundersen

What Is Probate?



Probate is the court process used to handle your affairs when you die. When a probate case is started, the court appoints an executor (if you have a will) or an administrator (if you do not have a will) to manage your estate. The executor or administrator determines what property is in your estate, pays all of your final bills, and then distributes the remaining property to your legal heirs or beneficiaries. The probate court supervises this entire process, which can take up to 1 1/2 years, or longer, to complete.

What is in your estate?

Included in your estate are:

- real estate in California,

- personal property,

- bank accounts,

- cars or boats, and

- stocks and bonds

Not included in your estate are:

- real estate outside California

- property held in trust

- property held in joint tenancy

- property that passes outside of probate by contract such as life insurance and certain retirement account

Costs of Probate

Going through probate is not free. There are filing fees your estate must pay. Moreover, there are legal fees and potentially administrator fees that your estate must pay. A $200,000 estate—gross value—could end up paying more than $8,000 in fees.


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