After an individual passes away, their assets and property may enter a legal process called probate. This process is court-supervised and will determine how a person’s assets will be distributed after their death. However, not all estates need to go through probate, and the threshold for when an estate must go through probate can vary by state.

In California, the value of the estate is a crucial factor in determining whether probate is necessary. If the estate of a loved one is about to go through the California probate process, it is important to be aware of how much an estate has to be worth to go through the process and what the overall probate process entails.

Determining Whether A CA Estate Will Go Through Probate

Determining whether a California estate will go through probate depends on several factors, including the value and nature of the assets involved. If the total value of the assets subject to probate is less than $166,250, then probate may not be necessary. Additionally, assets held in a living trust or those with designated beneficiaries, such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts, may not be subject to probate.

However, if the total value of the assets subject to probate is more than $166,250, then the estate may need to go through probate. The probate process involves the court overseeing the distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries and paying off any outstanding debts or taxes owed by the estate.

It is important to note that the probate process can be time-consuming and expensive, so it may be worthwhile to consider alternatives to probate, such as creating a living trust, to avoid probate altogether. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you determine the right approach for your unique situation and guide you through the legal process.

How much does an estate have to be worth to go to probate in California?

Breaking It Down: The California Probate Process Step-By-Step

The California probate process can be complex, involving many steps and potential obstacles. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the probate process in California:

  • Filing a Petition. The probate process begins with the filing of a petition with the court. This petition seeks to establish the validity of the will – if one is available, and appoint an executor or administrator to manage the estate.
  • Notice to Heirs and Creditors. Once the petition is filed, the court will issue a notice to all heirs and creditors, informing them of the death and the opening of the probate case.
  • Inventory and Appraisal. The administrator or executor will then identify and inventory all assets subject to probate and have them appraised to determine their value.
  • Payment of Debts and Taxes. The executor or administrator must pay off any outstanding debts or taxes owed by the estate using the assets subject to probate.
  • Distribution of Assets. Once all debts and taxes are paid, the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will, or if there is no will, to the heirs as determined by California law.
  • Final Accounting. The executor must file a final accounting with the court, showing all income, expenses, and distributions made during the probate process.
  • Closing the Estate. Once the final accounting is approved by the court, the estate is considered closed, and the executor or administrator is released from their duties.

It is essential to remember that the complexity of the estate and any potential conflicts might affect how long the probate procedure takes. Legal expenses and court costs may be taken from the assets subject to probate, and the probate procedure itself can be costly. An adept probate lawyer can assist you in negotiating any potential difficulties or disagreements as well as walk you through the probate procedure.


Q: What Assets Are Subject to Probate in CA?

A: Assets subject to probate in California include any property solely owned by the deceased person that does not have a designated beneficiary, such as real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, and personal belongings. However, assets that are jointly owned, held in a living trust, or have a designated beneficiary, such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts, may not be subject to probate.

Q: Do All Estates Go Through Probate in CA?

A: No, not all estates go through probate in California. If the total value of the assets subject to probate is less than a certain amount, or if the assets have been placed in a living trust, then probate may not be necessary. Additionally, certain assets, such as those held in joint tenancy, may pass directly to the surviving owner outside of the probate process. However, if an estate is subject to probate, the court-supervised process must be followed to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries.

Q: What Items Are Considered Part of an Estate?

A:  Items considered part of an estate in California include all assets owned solely by the deceased person, including real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, personal belongings, and any other property that does not have a designated beneficiary. This can include things like furniture, jewelry, artwork, and other personal property. Additionally, any debts or liabilities owed by the deceased person are also considered part of the estate and must be addressed during the probate process.

Q: How Do You Divide Items in an Estate?

A: Dividing items in an estate can be a complex and emotionally charged process, but there are several ways to approach it, such as a will or trust, a family agreement, and an auction or sale. In cases where there is significant disagreement among family members, it may be helpful to bring in a neutral third-party mediator to help facilitate discussions and find a mutually agreeable solution.

Don’t Face the Probate Process Alone

If you need assistance with navigating the probate process in California, contact the Law Office of Christopher P. Walker, P.C. Our experienced probate lawyers can guide you through every step of the process and provide you with the support you need during this difficult time. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help you with your probate needs.