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Reopening Probate In California: Things You Need To Know!

There are various reasons for which you can reopen probate. Remember, these aren’t just random reasons but serious issues like discovering new assets, fraud, finding that the will was fabricated, or major errors in the probate process.

If anything like this happens, you’ve solid ground to reopen the probate case. However, always consult a probate lawyer to ensure the entire process is handled correctly and the requirements are known. 

Below, we’ll explain the requirements for reopening probate in California. We’ll discuss in detail how much time you have to file a petition and who can reopen the probate. We’ll also share the valid reasons for reopening probate cases. Let’s dive in!

Can A Closed Probate Case Be Reopened?

Yes, a closed probate case can be reopened as this process is supported by law (43 CFR § 30.243):

“A closed probate case may be reopened if the decision or order issued in the probate case contains an error of fact or law (including, but not limited to, a missing or improperly included heir or devisee, a found will, or an error in the distribution of property), and the error is discovered more than 30 days after the mailing date of a decision.”

“A closed probate case may be reopened if the decision or order issued in the probate case contains an error of fact or law (including, but not limited to, a missing or improperly included heir or devisee, a found will, or an error in the distribution of property), and the error is discovered more than 30 days after the mailing date of a decision.”

However, to do this, you need solid reasons backed by evidence. For instance, you must have evidence if you’ve found a new will and are sure it’s the deceased’s last will. Otherwise, the judge may not consider your petition valid.

Who Can Reopen Probate In California?

Any party involved in a probate case, like the beneficiaries, creditors, a family member of the deceased, etc., can reopen probate in California. To begin with this process, you have to submit a petition to the court with the help of a lawyer to reopen the case.

The petition must provide strong evidence and reasons for reopening the case. If your reasons are valid, the court will likely reopen the case. Once reopened, a new personal representative may be appointed, the previous one may be reappointed, and the proceeding will begin.

How Long Do You Have To Reopen Probate In California?

The time limit individuals have to reopen a probate case is called “statute of limitation.” This statute of limitation varies from state to state. For example, an interested party in Arizona can reopen the case within two years of the decedent’s death or one year after the estate is closed.

In California, there’s no time limit to reopen the probate, but the faster you act, the better. This is to ensure the assets are still intact and have not been distributed to the beneficiaries, which will only complicate the process.

7 Reasons To Reopen Probate In California

Here are the seven valid reasons to reopen the probate in California.

1. Discovery of New Assets

Sometimes, family members discover new assets (not included in the will) after the probate process. In this situation, you can file a petition with the court to reopen the case to ensure the distribution of new assets as per the decedent’s wishes.

2. Errors In Probate Proceedings

If you believe a significant error in the probate proceedings affected the results, you have solid grounds to reopen the case. However, these errors must be well-documented to prove your point.

3. Evidence of Fraud

As much as it sounds unpleasant, fraud can occur during probate. Situations may arise where the executor of the will engages in fraudulent activities. If you have evidence of such misconduct, reopening the probate case is necessary.

4. Uncovering A New Will

Another reason to reopen the probate case is to discover the decedent’s new will. In this situation, you’ll need to file a petition in court, highlighting that the previous decision wasn’t based on the correct will, as you have found the decedent’s last will.

5. Identification of A New Heir

Although it’s not common, there are instances when a new heir is identified after the probate case has concluded. If this happens, you must file a petition to reopen the case so the new heir can receive their rightful share of the estate.

6. Incorrect Asset Distribution

If, as a beneficiary, you believe you haven’t received your rightful share of the estate according to the deceased’s wishes, you can file a petition to reopen the case. However, remember that you need valid evidence to support your claims in court.

7. Unresolved Debt Or Creditor Claims

According to the law, the debts and taxes of the deceased are typically settled during the probate process using the assets available. However, reopening the case is viable if any outstanding debts are not resolved or settled.

How Much Does It Cost To Reopen An Estate?

The cost to reopen an estate depends on various factors. A significant portion of the cost is the lawyer’s fee, but since most lawyers work on a contingency basis, this won’t be an issue at the beginning of the case.

Despite this, you will still have to pay other expenses, such as the petition filing fee, the cost for investigation, and the cost of acquiring evidence. It’s best to consult with a probate lawyer to understand the overall cost.

Final Thoughts

Reopening probate in California is a serious matter that requires solid grounds and evidence. Without having valid reasons, your petition will be rejected by the court judge, so make sure you’ve everything you need before you begin the reopening process.

It’s best to consult with a probate lawyer whether you have the chance to win or not. After consultation, make sure to hire a lawyer to represent you in the court.

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Dustin MacFarlane’s primary focus is on Elder Law and protecting families and seniors. He is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law by the State Bar of California Board of Specialization — a rare distinction.

Prior to becoming an attorney, Mr. MacFarlane worked in the Long Term Care industry. After becoming licensed to practice law in January of 2009, Elder Law quickly became his focus. Seeing the need during his former career, Mr. MacFarlane pursued Elder Law as a primary area of practice.

By Dustin MacFarlane

Dustin MacFarlane’s primary focus is on Elder Law and protecting families and seniors. He is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law by the State Bar of California Board of Specialization — a rare distinction.

Prior to becoming an attorney, Mr. MacFarlane worked in the Long Term Care industry. After becoming licensed to practice law in January of 2009, Elder Law quickly became his focus. Seeing the need during his former career, Mr. MacFarlane pursued Elder Law as a primary area of practice.