Probate is the court supervised process of settling a deceased individual’s legal and financial affairs. In California, probate is required when an individual dies with assets having a value of more than $184,500 titled in their name alone. In broad terms, the probate process can be summarized in three steps. First, an individual is appointed by the court to act on behalf of the deceased individual’s estate and tasked with inventorying and appraising all assets and liabilities. Next, all valid and legally enforceable debts of the deceased individual are handled. Finally, any remaining property is distributed to the named beneficiaries if there is a Will, or to the heirs at law if the deceased individual did not have a Will.

In California, probate administration is a public proceeding that tends to be expensive and slow. Through proper estate planning, however, probate can be avoided.