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Sacramento County Probate & Wills

Sacramento Probate & Wills

Your relative here in Sacramento has passed away, and now you have to go to probate court. What does "Sacramento County probate" mean?

Sacramento County probate refers to a California estate proceeding of somebody who died a resident of Sacramento County, California.

Put another way: probate is the method used for those who are left behind to transfer or inherit property from the person who has died. This can be done in a formal proceeding - a "probate" - as often times the transfer can be quite complicated. In some cases family or relatives may be able to transfer property from someone who has died without a probate - that is without going to court.

"Probate means that there is a court case that deals with:

  • Transferring the property of someone who has died to the heirs or beneficiaries;
  • Deciding if a will is valid; and
  • Taking care of the financial responsibilities of the person who died.

In a probate case, an executor (if there is a will) or an administrator (if there is no will) is appointed by the court as personal representative to collect the assets, pay the debts and expenses, and then distribute the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries (those who have the legal right to inherit), all under the supervision of the court. The entire case can take between 9 months to 1 ½ years, maybe even longer."

[In Sacramento County, there are five locations of the Sacramento County Superior Court:

  1. Civil and Criminal matters are heard at the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse located at 720 9th Street, Sacramento, California 95814.
  2. Family Law, Juvenile Dependency, and Probate Court matters are handled at the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse located at 3341 Power Inn Road, Sacramento, California 95826.
  3. Small Claims, Traffic and Unlawful Detainer (Landlord Tenant) matters are heard at the Carol Miller Justice Center, 301 Bicentennial Circle, Sacramento, California 95826.
  4. Juvenile Delinquency matters are heard at the Juvenile Courthouse, 9605 Kiefer Boulevard, Sacramento, California 95827.
  5. Criminal matters are heard at the Lorenzo Patino Hall of Justice [Sacramento County Main Jail] located at 651 I Street, Sacramento, California 95814.]

The Probate Division of the Sacramento Superior Court is located at the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse. The Sacramento County "Probate Court is responsible for overseeing the distribution of the assets of persons who have died.

Sacramento County Probate Court.jpg

Sacramento County Superior Court's Probate Division. Image: Sacramento County Superior Court

The Probate Division of the Sacramento Superior Court also watches over a variety of protective proceedings. It monitors the personal and property rights of minors and adults who are unable to take care of themselves or their property. The court also reviews the conduct of those responsible for the care and custody of the person and/or estate of minors and adults on an on-going basis (guardianships and conservatorships).

Generally, the types of cases which are heard in the Probate Court are one of the following types:

  • Decedents' Estates: The transfer of property that belonged to someone who has died (the decedent).
  • Trusts: The administration of living and testamentary trusts.
  • Conservatorships: Choosing a person to oversee the finances and/or the care of the older adult or a developmentally disabled adult who cannot take care of him/herself.
  • Guardianships: Authorizing a person to oversee the finances and/or the care of a child whose parents are unable to care for him or her."

In California, all of the court houses, and all of the counties, are divided into Superior Courts. Sacramento County sits in the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento. That's why on all court filed documents, including the California Judicial Council Form DE-111, you'll see at the very top of the document a reference to the "Superior Court of California, County of _______." The DE-111 Form includes check boxes for:

  • Probate of Will and for Letters Testamentary;
  • Probate of Will and for Letters of Administration with Will Annexed;
  • Letters of Administration;
  • Letters of Special Administration; with general powers;
  • Authorization to Administer Under the Independent Administration of Estates Act; with limited authority.

The Superior Court Clerk's office will issue a file number for every new lawsuit and every new probate which is opened up. Once this file number is issued, it will appear on every face page of a court filed document. When you file a petition for probate and administration and open up an estate in Sacramento County, you cannot select your judge. The judge sitting in the Probate Division will hear the probate case, and will make all decisions regarding the Sacramento County probate process, which we sometimes refer to as the "estate administration process", "trust administration process" or simply "estate administration," "trust administration" or "probate".

The Sacramento County Superior Court covers all Sacramento County matters. That is, matters arising in the county's incorporated cities - Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, Folsom, Galt, Isleton, Rancho Cordova, and Sacramento City - and also the numerous census-designated communities in its unincorporated areas, such as Antelope, Arden Arcade, Carmichael, Elverta, Fair Oaks, Florin, Foothill Farms, Gold River, North Highlands, Orangevale, Parkway-South Sacramento, Rancho Murieta, Rio Linda, Rosemont, Vineyard, Walnut Grove and Wilton.

Probate, estate and trust estate administration matters are governed by the California Probate Code. The Probate Code is a set of statutes or laws and these rules coupled with the Sacramento County Superior Court's Chapter 4 - Probate Rules provide the legal path to an effective estate administration.

The California Probate Code creates many rights, duties, and obligations for persons and property related to a deceased California resident. This Code defines and supports the property rights and interests entitled to widows, heirs, beneficiaries and creditors.

If you are a surviving spouse, heir, beneficiary or estate creditor you have rights in a Sacramento County probate. If you don't like the plan for distribution, if you object to the personal representative's compensation, if you believe the costs and expenses of administration were too high, if you believe that the personal representative did anything wrong, this is your chance to make your case, and to object.

Sometimes a Sacramento County probate includes a fight over money, a real estate dispute, financial elder abuse, abuse of a power of attorney by an attorney-in-fact, an inheritance lawsuit, an attempt to overturn the will, and a legal battle over money, bank accounts, and assets. Regardless of whether the Sacramento County probate is simple, or complex and full of inheritance lawsuits, one thing is for sure: This may be your one shot to be involved in the estate. So get a good Sacramento County probate lawyer, probate litigator, trust litigation attorney - one with experience, and take an interest in what's going on in Sacramento County probate.

Michael Hackard is a 40-year veteran of the law in Sacramento and a top attorney experienced in estate, trust and probate litigation. If you have a probate case, time is of the essence - make sure your interests are protected. Call Michael Hackard at Hackard Law today at 916-313-3031.

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