Probate and Trust Administration

At Steburg Law Firm, P.C., we are experienced in efficient Probate and Trust Administration. Each case is carefully handled by a qualified Probate and Trust Administration attorney and paralegal.


After a loved one dies, their assets must be distributed to their intended beneficiaries. This process can be accomplished by Probate or by Trust Administration.


Probate is the court process for transferring property from a deceased person to living people. The process is used whether a person died with a will (testate) or without a will (intestate).

A probate court case is necessary in California when a person dies leaving at least $150,000 of probatable assets. Probatable assets are property that is not transferred automatically upon the death of the owner. Examples of probatable assets are bank accounts with no joint owner or pay-on-death (POD) beneficiary, real estate held solely in one person’s name, or held “in common” with someone else, automobiles, artwork, collections, furniture, farm equipment, and all other personal property.

If all of the decedent’s assets were owned in a Living Trust, there is no need for Probate. Then, the assets are distributed using Trust Administration (see below).

Probate Procedure

When a person dies in California, an application for probate is filed with the state probate court. If there is a will, it will be filed.

All interested parties must be informed of the proceedings and a notice must be published in the local paper. Interested parties will have a chance to challenge the will. Any person or business owed money by the decedent must have a chance to make a claim against the estate.

If there is a valid will, the choice of personal representative and the distribution of property is controlled by the will. If there is no will, the court will decide who to appoint as personal representative, and the California law will determine who will receive the property.

The court appoints a personal representative (executor) to collect and distribute assets and pay debts. The personal representative must make an inventory and account for all property that is part of the estate.

When all of the assets are accounted for and inventoried, the debts of the decedent and the estate must be paid and finally what is left over may be distributed to the heirs.

Once the distribution is complete, the personal representative provides the heirs and the court with a final accounting and a closing statement, and the probate is closed.


Our firm also helps people with Trust Administration. We help distribute and manage assets of deceased persons who had Living Trusts. This process does not involve the courts when the trust was properly funded prior to death.

The debts of the decedent are paid by the trustee first, then the assets are distributed in whatever way the decedent specified in the trust.

The trust document will specify where the property is to go, and trust administration makes sure it is done. This involves dealing with stocks, mutual funds, drafting deeds, selling real property, auctioning personal effects, etc.

Many times, the a living trust specifies property will be held for a minor child for a number of years. The trustee will make sure that is done. Sometimes the living trust specifies that a new trust will be created for a disabled beneficiary. Establishing a new trust for the disabled beneficiary is also a job of the trustee during trust administration.

Once the distribution is complete, and all of the wishes of the decedent are completed, the trust is terminated. This all happens without court involvement, but it is often very helpful to have an experienced attorney guiding the process.


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