If you are the administrator of a friend or relative’s estate, you will need to familiarize yourself with the probate process. If the decedent had a trust in place at the time of their death, you may be able to sidestep the probate process. Otherwise, you will have to deal with the California probate courts to settle their affairs.

Probate deals with transferring the decedent’s property to their designated beneficiaries and heirs. You will need to handle the final affairs of the decedent and pay off any valid outstanding debts. Should there be a will challenge involved, the courts will determine whether the decedent’s will was indeed valid.

If there is a will, you will be appointed the executor. Cases where the decedent died intestate (with no will) are presided over by an administrator whom the court appoints as personal representative. You will review and list all assets, pay off debts and the decedent’s final expenses.

Whatever remains of the estate will then be distributed to the heirs at the end of the probate process, which typically takes months but could possibly take more than a year.

Many executors and estate administrators retain an attorney to administer the estate and handle any probate matters. This can be especially helpful if you are also an heir and want to avoid the appearance of impropriety or allegations of misappropriation by the other beneficiaries.

Depending on the size of the estate left by the decedent, probate can either be fairly simple or a highly complex endeavor. If you begin to feel that you are indeed in over your head at any point, it is advisable that you seek the counsel of a Newark estate administration and probate attorney.