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California Probate Lawyer

California Probate Lawyer

California inheritance lawyers helping families through the probate process

If you’ve recently lost a loved one in California, you may need to go through probate to take possession of any inheritance that has been bequeathed to you. While necessary, this process can seem incredibly confusing if you haven’t managed an estate before. When you need help, turn to an experienced inheritance attorney from Cianchetta & Associates. For nearly two decades, Attorney Peter Cianchetta has worked tirelessly to help the surviving spouse and children through each step of the probate process, taking the stress and worry off their shoulders so they can focus on healing after the death of a loved one.

If you are undertaking probate for a loved one’s estate, or you’ve been appointed the executor of someone else’s estate, contact our experienced probate team for an initial case evaluation.

Types of Probate & Inheritance Matters Our Firm Can Help With

At Cianchetta & Associates, a probate lawyer from our legal team can help you with any matters that can arise during the process, including:

  • Probate litigation
  • Understanding each step of the probate process
  • Providing details about probate case length
  • Preparing for inheritance disputes
  • Lost will searches
  • “Small estate” probates, an informal process for estates with aggregate assets below the threshold for formal probate per California probate law
  • Preparing and filing probate petitions
  • Collecting and transferring ownership of the decedent’s property, including real estate, money and personal property
  • Sales of estate assets
  • Contested wills
  • Challenges to appointment of administrators/executors
  • Accounting
  • Beneficiary litigation

The Probate Process in California: How long does it take?

In California, the formal probate process follows several steps. First, a person or persons must be designated to oversee the estate and probate process. This could be the surviving spouse, an adult child or a trusted family advisor. If the decedent left a will, they will typically nominate one or more people to serve as executor of the estate. If no executor was appointed, a California court will appoint someone to serve as the personal representative of the estate. 

The probate process formally begins when a petition is filed with the trial court in the county where the decedent resided at the time of their death. A petition may be filed by the person nominated as executor by the decedent’s will, or it may be filed by a relative of the decedent or a beneficiary named under the will. 

Once the petition is filed, the court clerk will schedule a hearing date, typically within about 30 days after the filing of the petition. Notice of the probate hearing must be published in the local newspaper, with written notice also being directly provided to every named beneficiary in a will, as well as to the legal heirs of the decedent (even if they are not named in the decedent’s will). The decedent’s creditors must also be provided with notice. 

At the hearing, the court will verify the will (if one exists). A will must be “proved” as the last will and testament of the decedent unless it qualifies as a “self-proving will” under California law. The court will also formally appoint one or more people to serve as an executor or administrator of the estate. 

Once appointed, the executor or administrator must then identify and gather all the assets of the estate, listing the assets of the estate in an “inventory and appraisal”. In some cases, the value of certain assets, like real estate, jewelry, or business interests must be formally appraised by an expert. The executor/administrator will use the estate’s assets to pay the decedent’s outstanding debts. The executor/administrator must also file a final personal income tax return for the decedent, as well as an estate tax return.

The executor/administrator must then file a final plan and accounting with the court that allows the court to review how the personal representative handled the estate. After paying the debts of the decedent and estate, all remaining assets can be distributed to beneficiaries or heirs according to the decedent’s will or California intestacy law. If the court finds no issues and no one files an objection, the court will discharge the executor/administrator from their duties. 

Let Cianchetta & Associates Help You Through the Probate Process

When you need help with a probate matter, our firm can assist in your case by:

  • Explaining the probate process to you and your family members and helping you understand your rights as a beneficiary, or your duties and obligations as a personal representative of the estate
  • Preparing and filing the petition for probate with the court
  • Assisting you with identifying and collecting all assets of your loved one’s estate
  • Facilitating notices to beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors.
  • Advocating on your behalf in probate litigation, such as will contests, creditors’ claims, or challenges to the estate accounting.

Contact Our Firm Today to Speak with a Probate Lawyer from Our Legal Team

If the probate process seems confusing and time-consuming to you, contact Cianchetta & Associates today for a confidential consultation to speak with a California probate lawyer about your legal rights and options in your case. 

Our experienced team helps clients and families through the probate process in Sacramento County, El Dorado County, Placer County, Solano County, Yolo County, and throughout California.

Frequently Asked Questions about Probate in California

FAQ: What is a probate lawyer?

A probate attorney usually handles the process of estate administration after a person dies. A probate lawyer works with the administrator or executor of an estate or with the beneficiaries of a decedent to help with the probate process. A probate lawyer can advise estate representatives and beneficiaries about their rights and obligations in probate and can assist with the paperwork needed in the probate process, including identifying and collecting estate assets, filing court documents, and preparing accountings for the estate. A probate lawyer can also represent an executor or administrator in probate litigation, such as will contests or beneficiaries’ lawsuits for accounting.

FAQ: How much does a probate lawyer cost?

It can often be difficult to determine at the beginning of a probate case how much hiring a probate lawyer will cost. There are numerous factors that can impact how long a probate case may last, including any inheritance disputes or will contests, any delays related to locating the decedent’s assets, and other complications. Probate lawyers are typically paid an hourly fee for the work they perform on a case. For simpler estates and wills where litigation may not be necessary, an inheritance lawyer may agree to work on a flat fee basis.


Mr. Cianchetta is an OUTSTANDING attorney. I was a little nervous about seeing an attorney for my case. Mr. Cianchetta and his staff made my wife and I feel right at ease. He took extra time explaining what to expect before, during and after our process. His advice was right on!

- Jack M.
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