The comprehensive guide to probate, trusts, estate planning, and inheritance litigation.

Final Distribution and Discharge In California Probate

When the administration of a California probate is complete, the last task for an administrator or personal representative is to petition for final distribution and obtain discharge.

What Is An Order for Final Distribution in California Probate?

When a California probate is ready to be closed, the personal representative files a petition for final distribution of the estate.  California Probate Code §11640. Upon the entry of an order for final distribution, the personal representative can distribute the remaining estate property to the beneficiaries.  California Probate Code §11641.

The personal representative is required to obtain receipts from the distributees of the property.  California Probate Code § 11751.  The receipts have to be filed with the court before or at the time of the petition for discharge.

An order for final distribution in California probate is conclusive to the rights of heirs and devisees in a decedent’s estate.  The order also releases the personal representative from claims by heirs and devisees, unless, of course, there is fraud or misrepresentation present.

When Can a California Personal Representative Be Discharged?

After the personal representative has complied with the order of final distribution, and the receipts of distributees have been filed or filing excused, the personal representative is discharged.  California Probate Code §12250.  Discharge is made upon ex parte petition.

How Long Can Probate Stay Open in California?

The California Probate Code sets forth deadlines for the personal representative to either petition for an order of final distribution of the estate or report to the court on the status of the administration. Pursuant to § 12200:

If there is no federal tax return required for the estate, the personal representative shall petition for final distribution or account within one year after the issuance of letters.

If a federal tax return is required, then the personal representative is required to petition for final distribution or account within 18 months after the date of issuance of letters.

For a complete guide, see Deadlines and Timelines In California Probate.

What Is A Report On The Status of Administration?

If the personal representative is not ready to make final distribution of the estate by the deadlines set forth in the California Probate Code and to obtain discharge, then the personal representative is required to report on the status of administration under California Probate Code §12200.  The report must show:

  • The condition of the estate
  • The reasons why the estate cannot be distributed and closed, and
  • An estimate of the time needed to close administration of the estate

The court, on the hearing for the report on the status of administration, can order that either:

  • The administration of the estate continues, or
  • The personal representative petition for final distribution.

See California Probate Code §12201.

What Happens If a California Personal Representative Fails To Petition for Distribution and Discharge?

If the personal representative fails to petition for final distribution take steps to close the estate, the court can cite the personal representative to appear before the California probate court and explain why the estate cannot be distributed and closed.

The court can order the personal representative to continue administration or petition for final distribution.  Failure of the California personal representative to comply with the court’s orders is a ground for the personal representative to be removed.  California Probate Code §12204.

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