CALIFORNIA PROBATE BOOK 2 – CHAPTER 8 – the main probate forms

The response has been great to my unpublished second California probate book. I might have to publish it after all.  Don’t forget my first book is available on Amazon. Here’s another chapter from book 2:

Chapter 8 – The Main Probate Forms

Probate is a form driven process. Most forms, in a California probate, are created by the Judicial Council of California and are called Judicial Council Forms. Most courts make these forms available for purchase at the courthouse. Other forms are downloaded from the county assessor’s website. Lastly, there are some that we attorneys draft. Of course having the right forms is one part of the battle. The other part is filling them out properly! This is much easier said than done! To the uninitiated the nuances of the questions can be difficult to pick up and understand. Other times the first time reader might just miss the point of the question. One of the keys to doing this process so many times is knowing which boxes to check in which cases.

Many, but not all, are available at the court house or online. Most are state forms while some are local forms. Additionally some are created by each attorney differently. Here is a run down of the main documents:

Petition for Probate – form DE-111 – The Petition for Probate is the main form to start the probate process. It is where you, the Petitioner, lay out all the facts. Who died, who you are, who the family of the deceased is, who is named in the will (if there is one), who is entitled to notice, etc…. The form is 4 pages plus whatever attachments you put on it. Some examples of customizing here might be an attachment that explains the petitioner’s relationship to the decedent if it’s not obvious. I recently had a case where the petitioner was a creditor of the deceased. A little explanation is a nice way of letting the court and interested parties know who you are. Here is the link on the state website: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/de111.pdf

Duties and Liabilities – form DE-147 – Duties is the form that gives an overview of your fiduciary responsibilities. It’s general and doesn’t cover all your fiduciary responsibilities but certainly covers the main ones. It covers prudent investments, not co-mingling the estate assets with your own assets, valuing the assets, keeping assets insured, keeping good records and when in doubt talk to your attorney. I always highlight that last one when I explain the form to my clients. That’s my job so use me! Here is the link on the state website: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/de147.pdf

Confidential Supplement to Duties and Liabilities – form DE-147s – This form just provides the court with your name, date of birth and driver’s license number. I think, in theory, the court investigates the petitioner. I actually have seen the sheriff arrest someone in Court and always wondered if they did the background check from the information on the confidential supplement!? The form is not required in all counties of California but we do it anyway just in case it is required by that particular court. Here is the link on the state website: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/de147s.pdf

Notice to Administer Estate – form DE-121 – This form is what is mailed, by standard US Mail, to all that are entitled to notice in a probate case. You do not send by certified mail. It is simply sent by regular mail to the last known address of each person. This should be sent at least 15 days prior to the Court date. The proof of service is to be completed and filed with the Court. Here is the link on the state website: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/de121.pdf

Letters – form DE-150 – “Letters testmentary” or “Letters of administration” is the magic document. It is THE document that drives a probate. It is THE document that puts you in the decedent’s shoes to transact business. In short, it is THE document. Here is the link on the state website: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/de150.pdf

Here is the link on the state website.

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