Probate for Adults

In California, a court may decide that an adult isn’t fit to make decisions related to their personal finances or well-being. This may occur if an individual suffers from a serious psychological or medical condition or if they’ve reached an age where they’re no longer in possession of their mental faculties.

Often, probate for adults is initiated by a relative—a spouse, grown-up child, parent, or sibling. Sometimes the courts allow other categories of people to apply for a probate conservatorship.

California permits two types of conservatorships. Similar to minor guardianships, a conservator may care for an adult who cannot physically care for himself, or the conservator may handle the financial aspects of the adult’s estate. That does not mean, however, that the conservator is entitled to control an estate and its assets.

Probate for Those Who Died Without a Will

Not everyone creates a will, and some wills aren’t valid. Thus, it’s possible your family members will have to initiate or undergo probate proceedings to determine:

  • If a will is valid or whether a will actually exists
  • Who, exactly, are beneficiaries of the will
  • How much cited properties are worth and how they will be equitably divided
  • How and when assets should be distributed

Other conditions exist, too. For instance, California residents don’t need to go through probate if they’re dealing with properties worth under $166,250. However, they’ll have to go to court if an estate or the asset value exceeds that amount, even if a will made provisions meant to avoid or circumvent probate.

How to Handle Probate

Every state has its own rules on how to initiate and settle different types of probate cases. In California, these processes tend to be fairly straightforward. However, some cases can be expensive and time-consuming, despite California’s relatively streamlined system. The courts often charge money to simply initiate procedures or file certain documents, and the process can become complicated when someone else challenges probate. In situations like these, it’s best to hire an estate planning attorney who can explain the system, challenge any unexpected difficulties, and explain California’s fee structure for probate cases and filings.


Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.