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Agoura Hills Estate Planning, Probate & Trust Attorneys

How long should a California probate case take?

Providing Peace of Mind One Estate Plan at A Time

In California, probate court cases last about 1 year. But it's not unusual for it to take longer. Here's why:

In most counties, it takes 4 to 8 weeks before the court will hear a Petition for Probate, a formal request to have the Judge appoint an Executor (if there's a Will) or an Administrator (if there's no Will). So if you file your Petition on August 1, you can expect a hearing date sometime in September. That's almost 2 months just to start a probate.

The same waiting period (about 2 months) applies when the Executor/Adminstrator petitions to close the probate. That's 16 weeks, and you haven't even dealt with most legal issues yet.

Once it starts, the Probate case must remain open for at least 4 months, to give potential creditors adequate time to bring their claims, if any, against the Estate. This 4-month period begins the day Letters Testamentary (the court document that gives the Executor the legal authority to oversee the estate) are issued, which is usually in the days or weeks after your first court hearing

So 2 months to open a probate, plus 4 months for the statutory creditors' claim period, plus 2 months to close the probate -- that's 8 months. Tack on a few more months to file tax returns, sell real estate, deal with unhappy heirs or dispute a creditor's claim, and a routine probate takes about 1 year.

In cases where a federal estate tax return (IRS Form 706) must be filed before the probate closes, the 706 filing deadline can be extended to 15 months after the decedent's death. So in those cases, the probate court proceedings will typically take longer than 1 year. In cases where there is ongoing litigation, the probate case could remain open indefinitely.

If you're unsure about probate, or have questions about the process, call us at 818.707.8200. We experts in California probate, and deal with these issues every day.