In the absence of a trust that allows assets to pass without opening probate, the California probate process lasts for at least six months and can run much longer depending on the size of the estate and the nature of assets. The role of the personal representative (i.e., the “executor” if nominated in the will) is to administer the estate efficiently, resolve creditor claims, and get the assets out to the rightful beneficiaries.
By no means, of course, is the probate process supposed to drag out for two decades. That’s exactly what happened, however, in a case in Riverside County Superior Court. In Estate of Sapp (2019) 36 Cal.App.5th 86, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the probate court’s removal of the personal representative, providing guidance as to when a representative may be removed. As the opinion indicates, probate is no time for napping by the personal representative or the beneficiary: the former has a fiduciary duty to get the job done and the latter may need to poke the dozing, inept and/or corrupt representative.