The California probate courts oversee the administration of people’s estates. Family members file testamentary documents with the courts or testify that there are no such documents to guide the process. The courts then help ensure that the administration of the estate complies with someone’s last wishes and California state law.
The probate process usually involves a creditor notification and repayment process. The personal representative managing estate affairs has to send formal written notice to known creditors and publish notice for unknown creditors. They may then need to wait for creditor claims before moving forward with the estate administration process.
However, payments to creditors diminish what beneficiaries receive from the estate. As a result, families may try to bypass certain financial obligations by avoiding probate. Do creditors owed money by someone who recently died have the authority to initiate the probate process in California?
Sometimes, creditors can ask the courts to open probate
Ideally, the surviving family members and personal representative of the deceased should make every reasonable effort to fulfill their financial obligations before distributing their property to family members and other chosen beneficiaries. Unfortunately, that is not always what happens. Some people try to take advantage of California’s loopholes regarding probate proceedings.
If the total value of the estate is less than $166,250, the family members or personal representative of the deceased by try to bypass formal probate proceedings. Creditors could end up deprived of the repayment they deserve without formal probate oversight. Therefore, creditors in California have the option to ask the courts to initiate probate proceedings if the family of the deceased does not. They generally need to do so within 40 days of a debtor’s death.
Creditors do not manage the process. The courts appoint a personal representative and oversee the process of distributing someone’s property. Creditor claims typically take precedence over the right of family members to inherit from someone’s estate. However, timely action is necessary both to file a creditor claim against the estate when someone dies or to compel the courts to initiate probate proceedings for an estate that otherwise may not require them.
Learning more about these unique probate laws in California may benefit those owed money by older adults, those with chronic health issues or those who have recently died to make more informed decisions about their rights and options.