Probate is the legal process by which the assets owned by a dead person are transferred to the heirs or beneficiaries of that person. During probate, the court first must ascertain that the will is valid, and then a full accounting of all the person's assets are made by the executor of the estate. The final transfer occurs once any debts owed by the deceased have been paid, states the California Courts website.
If the deceased has left a will, this must be declared valid by the court, or if no will is available, the court identifies the legal heirs to transfer the property to, according to the California Courts website. The court typically appoints an executor if there is a will or an administrator if there is no will to consolidate the property during the probate process. This court-appointed representative is responsible for gathering all the deceased person's assets, paying any liabilities that may exist and distributing the remaining assets to the deceased individual's heirs and beneficiaries.
In certain situations, probate may be unnecessary, such as if the value of the assets is less than a specified amount. Additionally, in some cases, there is no need for probate, even if the deceased owned a lot of assets, depending on the nature of the title deeds. For instance, community property and property held jointly with the ownership going to the surviving owner do not require probate. Assets in contract where the beneficiaries are specified also do not require to go through the probate process.