The Probate Process

A will contest can result in a significant delay in the distribution of a loved one's assets, and can also be expensive. The costs of a will contest are paid out of the estate, which may significantly deplete the available funds. If you are concerned that a will may be subject to a will contest, contact our firm to schedule a consultation with an experienced probate and estate administration attorney.

Probate is not always necessary, but it may take a lawyer's help to determine the best alternative course of action. As a general rule, property that passes through a will can be subject to the probate process, but property that is held in trust will avoid court intervention. When you create a trust and put property into the trust, you actually relinquish personal ownership of the property. Because you no longer own the property, it does not pass at your death, but stays in the trust, with a change in the beneficiary.

At the Law Office of Barbara J. Dibble, we handle these and other probate-related matters for clients in Fullerton, California, and the surrounding areas. We urge you to contact us online or call us at 714-515-5126.

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When someone dies and leaves property that is titled in his or her name alone and that is not set up to automatically transfer to someone else (such as to a surviving joint tenant or to a designated beneficiary of an insurance policy), then a probate may be needed to determine ownership of that property, whether or not the person had a will.

In California, estate administration is divided between small estates and large estates. If you have less than $100,000 of net value in the estate, or less than $20,000 in real property in the estate, you can pursue small estate administration, a process that dramatically reduces the time and complexity involved in settling the estate.

The Probate Process

Probate is the court process used to determine the validity of a will and oversee the payment of creditors and distribution of estate assets. Even if there is no valid will at the time of death, the estate will still go through the probate procedure. Since probate is regulated by state laws, there are specific procedures prescribed by each state for carrying out the process.

If you are the executor of an estate, contact an experienced probate attorney at Law Office of Barbara J. Dibble in Fullerton, CA to schedule a consultation with an experienced probate attorney who can help you identify and carry out your estate administration duties.

Probating the Estate

Despite the variation in state laws, probating the estate generally includes the following functions:

  • Petitioning the court to probate the will
  • Sending notice to creditors, beneficiaries and any other interested parties
  • Collecting, inventorying and appraising all estate assets
  • Collecting any payments, debts and income due to the estate
  • Paying any debts owed by the estate, including filing and paying local, state and federal taxes
  • Distributing any remaining assets to beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the will

Small Estates

Most states have a fast-track or simplified probate process for smaller estates that meet certain qualifications. Normally, this process allows probating the estate before a court administrator rather than the probate court which can cut down on the time and cost of probate.

Disadvantages of Probate

Time and expense: Probating an estate can be time-consuming, taking anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to complete. Contests to the validity of the will can increase the duration of the process. Probate also can be expensive, with any probate costs and fees coming out of the estate's funds.

Lack of privacy: Probate matters are part of the public record allowing anyone to find out the size, contents and beneficiaries of the estate. This lack of privacy can cause tension between family members.


If someone dies without a will or the probate court determines the will is invalid, that person is said to have died intestate. Each state has a set of default inheritance rules that apply in the absence of a will or other estate plan. These rules generally distribute property to the surviving spouse and children first followed by parents and other close family members. The only way to prevent the default rules from determining the distribution of assets is to have a valid will or trust in place before death.

Contact a Probate Attorney Today

An experienced probate and estate administration lawyer can help simplify the probate process for you. Contact Law Office of Barbara J. Dibble in Fullerton, CA for more information and to schedule a consultation.

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