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"Expert Probate Services in Aliso Viejo, Orange County - Your Trusted Local Advisor"

Posted by James Burns | Dec 14, 2023 | 0 Comments

Hello There, Future Court Visitor!

Are you curious about what happens in a California Probate Court? Maybe you've heard this term from adults around you, or perhaps you're just intrigued by how courts work. Either way, I'm here to guide you through this journey in a fun and easy way!

What is Probate Court Anyway?

First things first: Probate Court might sound super serious and complicated, but it's actually a place where important decisions are made after someone passes away. This court decides how the person's belongings (like their house, money, and personal items) are shared among family or friends.

1. The Judge: Your Guide in the Courtroom

Imagine you're walking into a large room with lots of seats and a big desk at the front—that's the courtroom. Sitting at the big desk is the judge, who's like the captain of a ship. The judge makes sure everything is fair and follows the rules.

2. The Court Clerk: The Organizer

Next, you'll notice the court clerk. Think of them as the organizer who keeps track of all the papers and schedules. They're super important because they help the judge and everyone else know what's going on.

3. The Process: How Things Work

So, how does it all start? When someone dies, a family member or friend (let's call them the "executor") will bring the person's will (a document that says who gets what) to the court. If there's no will, don't worry—the court has rules for that too!

4. The Hearing: Everyone Gets to Speak

During a hearing, which is like a meeting in the court, the executor explains the will, and other people can speak too. Maybe someone wants to make sure the will is followed correctly, or perhaps they have a reason to believe it shouldn't be. The judge listens to everyone before making a decision. Sometimes creditors show up and get a chance to address the court. 

5. The Decision: Fair and Square

After hearing from everyone, the judge makes a decision based on the law and what's in the will. This might include who gets the house, the money in bank accounts, or even the family pet! Often times this does not work out well for family members and we find many people are shocked by the results. When things are in court is a dice roll. 

6. The Paperwork: Dotting the I's and Crossing the T's

There's quite a bit of paperwork in probate court. It's all about making sure everything is documented correctly. This might seem boring, but it's super important to make sure everything is done right. While many folks attempt this on their own this often leads to delay and redoing paperwork because it is inadequate or incomplete. Probate proceedings last long enough even when the paperwork and process are in sync but doing it yourself can lead to further delays. 

7. The Timeline: Patience is Key

In California, the duration of a probate case can vary depending on various factors, but generally, it tends to be longer than the national average. The average time-frame for a probate process in the United States is about six to nine months. However, in California, the probate process commonly takes between 18 to 24 months as an average, which is just over a year to two years but many can exceed this. This extended duration is attributed to several factors, including the size and complexity of the estate, the volume of cases in the probate court, and specific issues like contests against the will or disputes raised by creditors.

Regarding creditors seeking payment from the estate, the process involves a few critical steps. Firstly, creditors are notified about the deceased person's passing. This notification includes sending formal notices to all known creditors and publishing a notice in a local newspaper. This action provides creditors with the opportunity to file their claims against the estate within a specific time-frame. The executor of the estate, who is responsible for managing the probate process, must then review each claim to ascertain its legitimacy. Valid claims are then paid out from the estate's assets, which might involve liquidating certain assets if necessary. This process ensures that the estate addresses all outstanding debts and financial obligations before distributing the remaining assets to the heirs and beneficiaries.

It's important to note that the probate process can be quite complex, and these steps can vary depending on individual circumstances. Additionally, unexpected issues can arise, such as disputes over the will or claims by creditors, which can extend the duration of the probate process.

In California, the probate court plays a crucial role in enforcing creditor's claims against a deceased individual's estate. Here's how it works:

Creditor Claims: A Free Slice of Your Pie

Creditors are required to file their claims with the California probate court. The timeline for filing a claim is either four months after letters are first issued to a general personal representative or sixty days after the creditor receives a notice of administration, whichever is later​.​​

Service of Claim: Once a creditor files their claim, they must serve a copy of it to the estate's administrator or executor. This service should occur within thirty days of filing the claim or four months after letters are issued to an executor with general powers​.

Executor's Role in Claim Review: The executor or administrator of the estate has the authority to either allow or reject the creditor's claim, in whole or in part. This decision is filed with the probate court and the creditor is notified​.

​​Enforcement and Legal Action: If a claim is rejected by the personal representative, or if the creditor refuses to accept the amount allowed in satisfaction of the claim, the creditor has the right to bring a civil action against the estate. Specific time frames apply for initiating such legal action, typically within 90 days after the notice of rejection is given, depending on the circumstances of the claim​.


Exceptions and Special Circumstances: In some situations, such as claims to enforce a lien or in cases where the estate holds specific property of another, creditor claims may be handled differently or may not require the standard probate claims process​. This process ensures that creditors have a formal avenue to seek repayment from an estate, while also providing a structured method for estates to address and resolve these claims. It's important for creditors to understand these procedures and timelines to effectively assert their rights. Executors and administrators must also be diligent in managing and responding to these claims, as part of their fiduciary duty in administering the estate.

Your Role: Just Observing, or Maybe More?

As a young visitor, you might just be observing, but who knows? Maybe one day you'll be more involved, like being appointed as an executor or even a lawyer. This experience is a great way to learn about responsibility and law but also gamble! One who does not put together a written estate plan is essentially gambling at the roulette table of life and Probate Court is the dealer of the house. 

Conclusion: A Learning Adventure

Visiting a probate court can be an exciting learning adventure. It's a place where important decisions are made, and understanding how it works is super helpful. Who knows, maybe this experience will inspire you to learn more about law or run and put together an estate plan that avoids court all together!


The Probate Court can be very complex, but it's goal is to make sure things are fair and legal after someone passes away and transfer that departed person's property but nothing is foolproof. By understanding this process, you're already ahead in learning how our legal system works and might be considering you don't want your family to go through this process, well the only way will be using a living trust for most of your property so that it bypasses the court system's oversight  into your property and affairs.

About the Author

James Burns

Estate Planning, Asset Protection, Business and Real Estate Transactions, nutraceutical Law and franchising:


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