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What does a probate judge do to administer an estate?

In California, the role of a probate judge is crucial in ensuring a smooth transfer of assets to a decedent’s heirs. Probate judges ensure the settlement of the estate’s debts and asset distribution according to the deceased’s wishes. These judges also handle estates when someone leaves no will or a relative contests the will. Understanding how the probate judge administers an estate can help you navigate the process more efficiently.

Approving the will

If a decedent leaves a will, the probate judge has a critical yet straightforward job. They carefully examine the will for validity regarding its execution and meeting relevant legal requirements.

The probate judge also ensures that no one contests the document, such as claims the individual was coerced into making or changing their will. If no one contests the will, the judge approves it, and the estate’s executor opens a bank account for the estate.

Managing assets and debts

A probate judge directs the estate’s executor to compile a detailed inventory of all the decedent’s assets. The list could include real estate, bank accounts, personal belongings and investments. The judge reviews all claims made by creditors, evaluates their validity and oversees the settlement of the debts.

After paying all debts and expenses, the judge supervises the executor while distributing assets to the heirs according to the decedent’s wishes and applicable laws. The judge closes the estate after the distribution of assets, and the estate’s court activity remains a public record.

Adjudicating disputes

If someone disputes the will’s contents or challenges its validity, the probate judge presides over the probate litigation hearing. They consider the presented evidence and make a ruling based on applicable laws to ensure a fair resolution.

When no will exists

A probate judge must perform significantly more work if a person dies intestate or without a will. They must appoint an executor or administrator for the estate to inventory assets and post a public notice of the estate’s existence to notify potential creditors or heirs.

The judge will then invoke intestate law according to the deceased’s state of residence and distribute the assets to the next of kin in the order determined according to state law. The judge will distribute the assets and close the estate.

Anyone involved in the estate can benefit from understanding the estate administration process. This information allows individuals to navigate probate and ensure a successful estate administration.