California probate is often viewed as a difficult process. There is, in fact, a lot of truth to the idea that it can be difficult to manage probate simply because most people are so unfamiliar with. This is especially true when, for example, people believe they need to be in possession of a decedent’s last will and testament before they go to probate court. Fortunately, if a relative of yours has died in California, you don’t need a will to begin the probate process.
Can’t Find the Will
Most people who create a last will and testament treat the document with care. They might, for example, keep it in a safe place at home, store it in a bank safe deposit box, or give it to an estate planning attorney for safekeeping. Additionally, when people create a will they also choose an executor who will manage the estate. The executor, if not given the will or copy of it, will typically know where the will is stored.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy or possible to locate the will, or to even be sure that a will exists at all. For example, let’s say your grandfather recently died and you and your other family members don’t know if he ever created a will. You have looked through the home, asked his attorney, and done everything you can think of to try to locate the document. Your search has proven fruitless, and now you don’t really know where to go.
Fortunately, dying without a will is quite common. Probate courts in California handle estates that are not covered by wills all the time. You can still go to the probate court and ask the court to open a new case even if you don’t have a will in your possession.
Destroyed or Missing
In some situations a deceased person in California will have made a will but, for whatever reason, no one can find it or a copy of it. In this situation California’s probate code says that the will is presumed destroyed. The law presumes that because the person making the will was capable enough to make the document, not being able to locate the will means that he or she was competent enough to destroy it with the intent to revoke the document.
Of course, it’s always best if you can locate a will, or a copy of it, before you begin any probate proceeding. If you have questions about how to do this you should contact an experienced and qualified California probate attorney for advice.