What You Need to Know About Probate in California

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California is best known for Hollywood, Disneyland, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Apart from that, it’s also known for Surf Culture, Coachella, Silicon Valley, and Wine County. Every year, over 40 million tourists visit the state. But these are not the only facts that are enticing about California. The state also has unique probate proceedings that make the transfer of properties to the surviving heirs easier and less complicated. 

According to Sweeney Probate Law, the pain of losing a loved one can be made worse when you also had to deal with the formalities and other legalities while mourning. While you can postpone dealing with the papers, you need to realize that it’s not something you can put off for a long time. Meaning, you can’t wait it out until you’re feeling better before you sort it out. 

What do you need to know about probate

Probate is the judicial process wherein the testator’s will is being proved. It could also mean the act of administering the estate of the deceased. Although each state has unique rules on probate, the purpose and objectives are the same – to adjudicate the testator’s will and carry their wishes.  

Do you have to go through probate in California?

Yes, probate is still required in California. Then again, there are two types of probates in the state. The process is quite simple if the subject estate is valued at $166,249 or less. In this case, probate could be dispensed with if the properties and other assets are attached to a surviving owner or beneficiary. 

A classic example of this would be life insurance premiums and policies named under a designated beneficiary. Here, the proceeds of the estate will go directly to the beneficiary. Properties under joint ownership would directly go to the surviving spouse. 

Can probate be avoided in California?

If you think probate is complicated, you would be glad to know that it’s entirely possible to have this dispensed within California. To do this, you need to put all the assets you want to transfer to your heirs in a living trust. 

Here, you can designate different beneficiaries to receive these assets in the trust when you die. Your death will open the succession and transfer all these assets put in trust to them. Another way of avoiding probate is to list your assets as payable upon your death or name a beneficiary. An example of this would be to add someone as a beneficiary to life insurance or designate someone as the owner of a bank account. If you want to transfer real estate upon death without probate, you can also execute a transfer on death deed. 

Can an estate executor be compensated?

Yes, in California, the Code expressly designates payment of executor for taking care of the estate for the heirs. They are set to receive an amount set by the court. If there is a stipulation on their remuneration, this will take precedence over the court’s decision. This means that what they agree on will weigh more and be followed instead of the court’s decision. 

The amount that the executor gets is expressly stated in Chapter 1, Article 1 of the Californian Probate Code -Division 7. Under this code, the executor is set to receive at least 4 percent of the first $100,000 of the estate’s value. After which, they are also set to get 3% of the second $100,000 and  2% of the following $800,000. If the estate is worth USD 9 million, they will receive 1% of it. Further, if the estate is valued at $15 million, they will receive ½ percent of it. 


Probate in California is unique to the probate of other states. Here, you have options when you want to completely evade subjecting the testator’s will to judicial and extrajudicial proceedings. Take note of the rules and choose which one is applicable. If you’re confused or unsure, it’s best to seek the wisdom and guidance of a lawyer. They can advise you on the best courses of action or the next steps of the probate proceeding. Choose a knowledgeable lawyer in California law and see how easy the probate proceeding becomes unfussy and seamless.