Probate can be a confusing and overwhelming topic, especially when someone may have recently passed away in the family. We’re going to help explain, in plain language, how probate works in Kern County. This is not legal advice, just an overview to help point you in the right direction.
The simplest way to explain Probate is the process of proving ownership with the local government. When someone owns land, and that owner passes away, it’s likely that the land has to go through Probate in the County in which the land is located.
The technical meaning of Probate:
There are two basic methods:
Each option has its pros and cons. The best place to start is to understand the approximate value of your land. Generally, if the value of the land is less than or the same as the cost of hiring a lawyer, you may want to go through the Probate process yourself.
If you decide to go through Probate yourself, here are the basic steps:
Once completed, if successful, the County should file a document that transfers the land ownership to the new rightful owner within a few weeks.
Helpful links for Kern County Probate:
Self-help link for Kern Probate
Kern Probate Forms & PDF Downloads
Consider the value of the property. If the land you have is worth $3,500 and you’re paying $3,000 to an Attorney to complete the Probate, it’s likely not worth it.
Alternatively, if you’re doing the Probate on your own, remember that it involves a lot of follow-up and paperwork. Consider your time and effort needed to complete the Probate process.
There is a third option, which is to do nothing. This is not recommended. If you stopped paying the tax bill on the land, eventually the County will take back ownership of the land, after a few years of delinquency. Then the Tax Department with sell the land at an auction to make back their tax revenue. Note: A former Owner can’t buy back their land at the County’s auction.
Rule of Thumb: If the land is valued at less than $8,000, consider going through Probate yourself. If it’s worth more than $8,000, consider hiring a professional Probate Attorney.
You want to make sure there is enough value in the land. Make sure if you sold the land at a discount it would still cover the Attorney’s fees and leave some money in your pocket.
Once you own land, you can sell it in a variety of ways. Talking to the neighbors is a great place to start. There are a number of places where you can market and sell your land online. We’ve written another article here on the best ways to market your land as a private seller, For Sale By Owner (FSBO).
*This article is an opinion– it’s not legal advice.