California Probate: The Basic

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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When a California resident dies, the collection and distribution of their possessions is governed by California probate law. The probate process depends on the total value of the decedent’s (deceased person’s) estate after all taxes, debts, and probate fees are paid. If you are the heir to the estate of a recently deceased person in California, the following information should guide your approach to the California probate court.

Property That Can Bypass California Probate

Some property does not require the probate process. This includes property held in living trusts or held jointly by two or more owners. For example, the decedent and his or her spouse may own a home together as joint tenants with right of survivorship. When one spouse dies, the other spouse receives the deceased spouse’s share of the house automatically, without going through probate. Likewise, cars and/or joint bank accounts can be handled in much the same way. Titles to cars can be held jointly and bank accounts can be designated as Pay On Death (or POD) accounts. Due to the tax consequences of such arrangements, you may need to consult an experienced California probate lawyer who can help you understand the tax fallout of jointly held property.

Additional California Probate Resources

California Superior Courts, Listed by County

California Probate Code

Alameda County
Alpine County
Amador County
Butte County
Calaveras County
Colusa County
Contra Costa County
Del Norte County
El Dorado County
Fresno County
Glenn County
Humboldt County
Imperial County
Inyo County
Kern County
Kings County
Lake County
Lassen County
Los Angeles County
Madera County
Marin County
Mariposa County
Mendocino County
Merced County
Modoc County
Mono County
Monterey County
Napa County
Nevada County
Orange County
Placer County
Plumas County
Riverside County
Sacramento County
San Benito County
San Bernardino County
San Diego County
San Francisco County
San Joaquin County
San Luis Obispo County
San Mateo County
Santa Barbara County
Santa Clara County
Santa Cruz County
Shasta County
Sierra County
Siskiyou County
Solano County
Sonoma County
Stanislaus County
Sutter County
Tehama County
Trinity County
Tulare County
Tuolumne County
Ventura County
Yolo County
Yuba County

Also, see our article on Bypassing the California Probate Process

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