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Superior Court of California - County of San Diego: Probate: Wills, Estates & Trusts

Wills, Estates & Trusts



Wills, Estates & Trusts

What is probate?

Probate is the court-supervised process for identifying and gathering the decedent's assets; paying taxes, debts, and expenses; and distributing the balance to beneficiaries.  Probate deals with transferring the property of someone who has died (decedent) to the heirs or beneficiaries, deciding if a will is valid, and taking care of the financial responsibilities of the person who has died. A person dies either "testate" or "intestate."  Those terms are defined below:

  • Testate - Decedent (testator) leaves a will; beneficiaries and disposition of estate are set forth in the will.
  • Intestate - Decedent leaves no will; property is distributed to heirs in accordance with the Probate Code.

Required forms for filing a Probate of Estate:

  • Petition for Probate (Form DE-111) and all attachments
  • Original Will (if applicable)
  • Duties and Liabilities of Personal Representative (Form DE-147)

If you need to prove a will, you may also need to file the following forms:

Frequently Asked Questions about Wills & Estates

Probate Process Timeline

Does every estate have to go through probate?

In estates where the total value of the assets is less than $100,000, certain affidavits or summary proceedings may allow transfer of property. The size of the estate, the relationship of the decedent to the beneficiary, and the character and/or title of the property generally determine the procedure applied to any given situation.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has information regarding transferring a vehicle without Probate.

Forms for filing for Summary Proceedings:
The form you use will depend on your specific situation.

  • Affidavit (or Declaration) for Collection or Transfer of Personal Property (Prob. Code 13100, et seq.)
  • Affidavit re Real Property of Small Value (Form DE-305)
  • Petition to Determine Succession to Real Property (Form DE-310)
  • Spousal or Domestic Partner Property Petition (Form DE-221)

Frequently Asked Questions about Summary Proceedings

What is a trust?

A trust is an arrangement which takes effect during the lifetime of the creator of a trust. A trust avoids probate on any assets that are titled in the name of the trust. The terms of the trust must be revealed to the beneficiaries and heirs when the terms become irrevocable. The terms usually become irrevocable when the creator of the trust dies. A trust may also be set up by a will, which leaves property in trust for a beneficiary. These trusts are called testamentary trusts and are usually irrevocable.

Definition of Terms

A person or persons who hold legal title to property that is in a trust.

A person or persons who create the trust.

Testamentary trust:
A trust that is created through a will and does not become effective until decedent dies.

Frequently Asked Questions about Trusts

Wills & Estates FAQ

Trusts FAQ

Summary Proceedings FAQ

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Superior Court of California, County of San Diego