How to Lodge a Will in California

A personal representative is responsible for overseeing the estate, settling debts, and allocating assets according to the will’s directives. One of the personal representative’s first tasks when settling an estate involves lodging the will with the appropriate county court.  This article explains the process under California law. 

Where to Lodge the Will

Lodging of the will is governed by Probate Code section 8200, which requires the custodian of the decedent’s will to lodge it with the Superior Court within 30 days of learning of the decedent’s death. The appropriate county for lodging the will is the county where the decedent resided at the time of death.  So, for example, if the decedent lived in Orange County at the time of death, you should contact the Orange County Superior Court’s Probate Department to lodge the will.

How to Lodge the Will

The will can be delivered in person or mailed to the court clerk’s office via registered or certified mail. There is a fee to lodge the will. Government Code section 70626 (d) currently sets the amount of that fee at fifty dollars.

If you personally deliver the will, the court clerk will take the original and return conformed copies to you.  If you mail it, you should include multiple copies and a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the return of a copy to you. The court will mark the documents with a “received” stamp and give you the copy. Once the will is lodged with the clerk, it becomes a public document.  After lodging the will, it’s mandatory to dispatch a copy to all beneficiaries stated in the will.

Lodging the Will at the Time of Filing a Probate Proceeding

The will can be lodged with the court either before or after the testator has died.  Usually, the will is deposited with the court after the testator has died, when the personal representative files a Petition for Probate. In this regard, the will can be lodged at the same time you submit the probate petition and related documents required to open probate. The court clerk receives the original will and provides a receipt.  The clerk will also file the probate petition and set a date and time for a hearing. At the hearing, the judge will either accept or reject the will.  The court will set the initial hearing usually within 45 to 60 days from when you lodge a will and file the probate petition.

Consequences of Failing to Lodge the Will

The custodian of the will must lodge the will even if no probate is anticipated. A custodian who fails to do so is liable for all damages to any person injured by the failure.  Additionally, California Probate Code § 8001 provides that an executor’s failure to petition the Superior Court for administration of the decedent’s estate within 30 days after the executor has knowledge of the decedent’s death operates as a waiver of his right to be the personal representative, unless there is good cause for delay.

Please contact Lynx Legal if you need help lodging a will or would like to initiate a probate proceeding.  We can be reached at 888-441-2355 or  Our experienced staff is standing by to answer any questions or take your order if you are ready to start a case. 

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