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How do you close a probate estate?

It is no secret that the probate of an estate can be a long and complicated process. There are several details families must be aware of and steps a personal representative must complete to bring the estate to a condition for it to be closed and distribute the assets left behind.

However complex the process is, what about when it is complete? What is the process for closing a probate estate in California?

1. Submit the Petition for Final Distribution

To close a probate estate, executors/administrators must file a Petition for Final Distribution with their respective probate court. This often includes:

  • The status report: This document should explain the status of the probate estate and confirm whether or not the estate is ready to be closed.
  • The final account: This account should detail all of the financial activities regarding the estate throughout the entire probate process, such as paying debts.
  • A record of what executors/administrators have done: Executors or administrators should also submit a report that explains everything they have done with estate assets.
  • Distribution plan: This should account for all the beneficiaries who will receive assets from the loved one's estate, as well as which assets they will receive. Executors must be detailed with this plan. If they are not, the probate court may not approve the petition.
  • A request for approval: This is an official request for the probate court to approve the probate estate and complete the distribution.

A status report and final account are not always necessary under California law. Families should review their individual circumstances to determine if they must file these documents to close the probate estate. It is often beneficial for families to work with an experienced probate attorney throughout the probate process, so they can avoid risks and errors, as well as protect their rights.

2. Distribute the assets

To finally close the estate, executors must:

  • Ensure all debts on the estate are paid;
  • Distribute the assets exactly as they explained in the Petition for Final Distribution;
  • Collect receipts from the beneficiaries assuring that they received the property from the estate; and
  • File all of the receipts with the probate court.
  • Request to be discharged as the executor/administrator from the probate court

Every family's situation is different, and the process of closing their loved one's probate estate might require some additional steps. However, after this general process is complete, families can close the probate estate and move forward.

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