Partial Distributions in California Probate

Did you know you can get a distribution BEFORE 7 months is up in a California probate case? That’s true. Below are my notes from a 2008 seminar I presented on probate law to a group of attorneys.  Please review these notes, our probate website ( or contact me directly.  -John

  1. Partial Distributions
    1. Pursuant to PC 11620, a petition for an order for preliminary distribution of all, or a portion of, the share of the decedent’s estate is possible. It may not be filed unless at least two months have elapsed after letters are first issued to a general PR.  Additionally, pursuant to PC 11621, the Court shall order distribution if at the hearing it appears that the distribution may be made without loss to creditors or injury to the estate or any interested person.
    2. If the PR has IAEA authority a preliminary distribution may be made pursuant to PC 10520 as follows:

If the time for filing claims has expired and it appears that the distribution may be made without loss to creditors or injury to the estate or any interested person, the personal representative has the power to make preliminary distributions of the following:
(a) Income received during administration to the persons entitled under Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 12000) of Part 10.
(b) Household furniture and furnishings, motor vehicles, clothing, jewelry, and other tangible articles of a personal nature to the persons entitled to the property under the decedent’s will, not to exceed an aggregate fair market value to all persons of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) computed cumulatively through the date of distribution. Fair market value shall be determined on the basis of the inventory and appraisal.
(c) Cash to general pecuniary devisees entitled to it under the decedent’s will, not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000) to any one person.

  1. The request for preliminary distribution can be made ex parte, without a noticed hearing and thus can be done rather quickly if a beneficiary needs the money.
  2. A specific devise does not bear interest until one year from the date of the death of the testator.  The interest rate on such a devise is three percentage points less than the legal rate on judgments in effect one year after the date of the testator’s death.  In order to avoid the accrual of interest, it is good practice to distribute the specific devise as soon as practicable by use of the preliminary distribution procedure.

PRACTICE POINTER: It should also be remembered that if a beneficiary needs the money right away, and it’s too early to qualify for a Court ordered preliminary distribution there are reputable companies who make probate advances. The rates are very steep but in a true emergency it’s a way to get cash to a beneficiary within 48 hours.

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