Practicing as a probate lawyer in San Marcos, Vista, Escondido and Oceanside I find that many people do not understand the very basics of the probate process and it sometimes leads to trouble. When someone dies, if they do not have a trust, and often, even when they do, probate is needed. Probate is simply the process used by the legal system to make sure a dead person’s bills are paid and their remaining assets get legally transferred to either their beneficiaries or their heirs. Since the person who owned the house and the bank accounts and automobiles and furniture etc. has died, there is no one to make the transfer. Probate is the legal process where the court gives a person called an administrator or personal representative the legal authority to pay the deceased person’s bills and transfer title in their property to their beneficiaries or heirs. The process gets started when someone files a petition with the court, and publishes a notice that the decedent has died and telling everyone in the county where the decedent lived, that a petition for probate has been filed. This gives creditors and other interested parties the chance to let the court know they might have a right or claim to some of the decedent’s property or the right to be paid from the decedent’s estate. Depending on the complexity of the estate, it can take years to put one through probate. The goal is to get it done in less than a year, but in many instances, especially if there is a lot of real property or a business involved, it can take much longer than a year. It can be a complicated process and really needs a probate attorney to make the program work well.