California probate is a difficult process for a family. While the California probate process helps settle estate matters, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an easy process to go through. In fact, it can be downright overwhelming. In this post, we’re going to give 10 tips that can help you start the California probate process.
10 Tips to Make the California Probate Process Go a Little Smoother
Get certified copies of the death certificate. You can get certified copies of the death certificate from the county health department or vital statistics of the county where the death occurred. Certified copies are needed to collect life insurance and other death benefits. You’ll also need them to transfer joint tenancy property. You’ll also need one if the decedent has a safe deposit box and you need to check it for a will or other assets. If you’re not entirely sure which county because you’re not from the area, ask the mortuary that helps you with the final arrangements. They may be able to help you by giving you the proper contact information.
Find the will. California probate is easier to get through with the will. If you can’t find a will, the probate court will follow California intestacy laws to determine how the estate should be distributed.
Collect the decedent’s mail or have it forwarded to your address. This primarily a necessity if the decedent lived alone. It’s an important step because it will help you get a good understanding of the possible claims from creditors that you may expect.
Cancel credit cards and subscriptions. This is primarily done if the cards and subscriptions were only in the name of the deceased. If it was jointly held, you would still want to notify the creditor of the death (and they may request a certified copy of the death certificate). Destroy the credit cards that list only the name of the deceased to help prevent fraud.
Contact the Social Security Administration and the California Director of Health Services. If the deceased received monthly benefits from Social Security, they need to know about the death. Be aware that the check that was received from the SSA on the month of death must be returned even if the death occurred on the last day a month. If there were MediCal benefits, you must inform the Director of Health Services of the death within 90 days.
Try to get bank accounts released. This isn’t always possible, but it is always worth a try. There may be immediate expenses for the decedent’s family or for the estate that must be taken care of right away. If the bank account had a beneficiary listed for death, the beneficiary will have to provide a certified copy of the death certificate and valid identification for the funds to be released. For accounts only in the name of the deceased in an estate worth less than $100,000 and when there is no beneficiary named, a certified death certificate and a specific affidavit may enable the bank to release the funds.
File life insurance claims. Generally, this is done directly by the named beneficiary. If you’re not the beneficiary and you’re not sure who is, look for a copy of the life insurance policy. These benefits are generally paid to the beneficiary quite fast, but a certified copy of the death certificate must be included with the claim.
Address annuity benefits. If the decedent purchased annuities, they likely named someone as a beneficiary to receive the benefits. The beneficiary should contact the company managing or handling the annuities to file a claim. They will need a certified copy of the death certificate. They may also need valid identification.
Contact SSA for the one-time death benefit. Social Security may provide a one-time death benefit of $255 if survivors meet certain qualifications. To learn more about the death benefit as well as the qualifications, visit the SSA’s website.
Get ready to file the final income tax return. You’ll have to file both a federal and state income tax return to cover the beginning of the tax year until the date of death. Depending on the situation, you may also need to file taxes from the date of death until the end of the tax year. If the decedent left behind a spouse, a final return may be a joint return. You may find it helpful to get advice or assistance from a tax preparer or CPA.
Do You Need Help Collecting Your Inheritance?
If you’re an heir and you’re wondering how you can collect your inheritance during the California probate process, use our free consultation process located here. You’ll find out within minutes if we’re able to help!