You Can Open California Probate Without an Attorney

California courts permit people just like you to open probate without an attorney. The probate process can be daunting for those struggling with losing a loved one in California. However, many people don’t realize that opening a probate case without an attorney is possible. This article will explain navigating the California probate process and provide helpful tips for proceeding without an attorney.

Disclaimer and Terms of Use: This website is not an official repository of information on probate court proceedings in Kern County. It is provided as a courtesy only to give general information about the topic.

What is Probate?

Suppose a member of your family recently passed away. Probate is the court process that transfers that person’s belongings to his or her heirs. It is often used to transfer property inherited by the person’s spouse, children, and other close relatives. Probate can also transfer property to a trust, which a trustee can administer.

Advantages of Doing it Yourself

The first advantage of doing your probate is saving you money. Many people are surprised to learn that when someone dies, there are often costs associated. California statutes set the price of the probate attorney. If you can do the work without an attorney, you can save approximately 4% of the estate’s value. For a $250,000 estate, the attorney’s statutory fees are $8,000. That’s money that you could save and distribute to the heirs of your deceased loved one.


  • Cost savings due to not needing to pay an attorney.
  • The California State Bar and other organizations offer probate law guidance, which means you have access to the resources you need.
  • By doing the work yourself, you obtain a much better understanding of the process and understand better why certain events, decisions, or orders were made.
  • When you represent yourself, you have complete control over decisions and the timeline of the probate process without external interference from a lawyer.


  • Difficulty navigating complicated probate laws in California without professional guidance and advice from an attorney.
  • The risk of making mistakes throughout the process could result in unfavorable outcomes or invalidate documents submitted to the court system. 
  • Mistakes can be more costly than attorney fees.
  • Complexity in handling contested estates and disputes between executors, creditors, and beneficiaries when attempting to do.

What Forms are Needed?

To open probate, you will need to file a petition for probate. (See forms DE-111, DE-121, DE-125.) Once the court appoints an administrator, the administrator must file Orders, Letters, and a Bond. (See forms DE-140, DE-147, DE-147S, and DE-150.) The law library at 1415 Truxtun can be a great resource for the do-it-yourself administrator. The law library is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Fridays; it closes for one hour at noon every day.

Step-by-Step Guide

This blog article is too short to cover a step-by-step guide, but if you have Kern County real estate to sell, you should consider purchasing the step-by-step guide available on Amazon called “No Will? No Problem!” by Jared R. Clemence. The book offers examples and step-by-step instructions with action plans at the end of each chapter.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

The most common pitfall occurs when administrators incorrectly complete the forms. The forms are intended to be easy to use, but the layout and instructions can sometimes be confusing. I regularly see people either miss a checkbox or completely misunderstand the forms. When this happens, the hearing is continued for another 45 or 60 days, and the person must try again. It can be incredibly frustrating and usually leads to the person hiring professional help. If you are going to do it yourself, take your time with the forms and ensure that you read and understand every word.

Resources for Further Assistance

If you have real estate in Kern County that needs to be sold through probate, check out the book “No Will? No Problem!” by Jared R. Clemence (that’s me). It’s available on at this linked location.

If you don’t have real estate for sale, you can always schedule a consultation with an attorney to get ad hoc advice. You can also visit the law library (see above) for information about the probate court’s forms and processes. If you have questions about probate that aren’t answered here, please get in touch with me. Disclaimer and Terms of Use: This website is not an official repository of information on probate court proceedings in Kern County. It is provided as a courtesy only to give general information about the topic.

Conclusion: DIY Probate Possible

In conclusion, probate can be done without an attorney if you are willing to take the time to learn and understand the process. Remember that probate is a legal proceeding, and it’s important to follow the state laws governing this process. With research and careful preparation, you can complete probate independently. Don’t forget to consult with experts if you get stuck or have questions along the way.

Use Help When You Need It

Coleman & Horowitt offers consultations on an hour-by-hour basis. Schedule consultations at 661-325-1300. If the probate process is overwhelming, we are happy to assist. We have been doing probate in Kern County for over 30 years, and our team can make the process easy for you.