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California Probate Sales: What Buyers and Sellers Should Know

If you're looking to buy or sell a home through California probate, it can be confusing to understand how California law differs from regular probate. Learn more about what to expect if this is your first time dealing with a probate and you don't want to miss out on any important steps.

If you're looking to buy or sell a home through California probate, it can be confusing to understand how California law differs from regular probate. Learn more about what to expect if this is your first time dealing with a probate and you don't want to miss out on any important steps.

When someone passes away, it is common for any property they owned to be designated to a friend or family member. Sometimes, the property may be put on the market for sale. Except for a few situations, the property almost always goes into probate.

Understanding what probate entails is important whether you’re interested in buying or selling a property. The process for probate property is a bit different in California, and it’s important to understand how the state law changes this.

If you’re thinking about selling a house through probate, it’s important to work with a seller who is experienced and understands the process. And if you’re looking to buy, you’ll want an agent who understands how to help you navigate the process. Here are a few things to know before you get started, no matter if your goal is to buy or sell.

Understand What Probate Involves

When someone dies and does not designate a property, the executor takes responsibility for it and starts the probate process. Many people hire a probate attorney to help them through the process, since there’s a lot of paperwork and can take a while. Before selling the property, the executor must take into account the debt, let creditors know about the death, and pay any outstanding bills first.

After this has occurred, the estate transfer the items and property to the beneficiaries that are rightfully theirs. This process can take anywhere from six months to two years depending on several factors. When there is a will already in place, there are fewer issues related to probate. It’s natural to have a lot of questions during the process though, since there’s so much to handle.

Instances Where Probate is Unnecessary

There are some cases where probate is unnecessary depending on how the assets were left before they passed. If the property was held jointly with someone else who is still alive, there is no need to go through probate. Any assets held in a living trust or accounts that have a payable-upon-death beneficiary can bypass the probate process, since there is already someone named to take over these items.

Assets must have been worth a sizeable amount of money to go through the process. Anything that is $150,000 or less can bypass the probate process or be acquired with a sworn affidavit. By knowing what instances the probate process can be bypassed, it’s easier to handle the property and sell it, if that’s part of the plan.

Know How California Law Affects Probate

If the value of the property exceeds $150,000, there is no joint person who is named on the property, or there’s no will, the executor or closest living relative will handle the probate process. In California, this often requires several steps and can take some time to sort out.

Some people might feel pressured to use an attorney because of all the paperwork, but understand that attorney fees in California can be steep and not worth the amount of money, unless there’s a fight or other problems relating to the property. The amount due is a percentage fee of the assets going through probate, which can leave the executor with little money to use after they pay the fees out.

First, the will needs to be filed where the individual lived. This is followed by a petition for probate, along with proper notice to any heirs and beneficiaries. After that, a notice is put in the newspaper to inform creditors.

The individual is usually granted the ability to act as the executor, and pay off any debts, including distributing them to the correct parties. Many executors reject payment for their services, since this is subjected to income taxes. There is no inheritance tax in California, which is how many executors choose to receive their money.

Selling a Home in California Through Probate

When selling a home in California through probate, it’s important to remember certain instances that can make the process take longer. Buyers can make an offer, but in probate cases, a 10% deposit is required along with the offer. After getting a sale date, a period of up to 45 days at the new advertised price is necessary.

When selling a home through probate, it’s helpful to have a real estate agent. A flat fee agentcan help you make the most of your sale, while helping you get the best price for your property.

Buying a Home Through Probate

When buying a home through probate, it’s often advisable to get an inspection. Since the seller is no longer alive, you have no way of knowing if there are any problems. By having an inspection, you can rule out if the house is worth investing.

If you’ve considered buying a home, it’s important to work with a seller who understands the probate process. A Clever Partner Agent can help you locate the right property for your needs and navigate the probate process so you know what to expect.

If you’re buying or selling a probate property, you can get the help you need from an experienced real estate agent who can help you through the paperwork and legal process.


Jamie Ayers

Jamie is the Director of Content at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you with top real estate agents and helps you save thousands on commission. In the past, Jamie has managed columns for clients in a variety of leading business publications, including Forbes, Inc., CEO World, Entrepreneur, and more. At Clever, Jamie's primary goal is to provide home sellers, buyers, and investors with the information they need to successfully navigate the ins and outs of the real estate industry.

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