It depends on what kind of property it is and the value thereof. If it is real estate, most likely you are going to have to probate it so that title to the real estate can be transferred into your name.
I'm sorry about your father's death. If the "gross value" your father's estate is $100,000 or less, you can collect his assets with a "small estate affidavit" [the law requires that you wait 40 days after his death before you can use the affidavit].
If part of his "small estate" consists of real estate (a house, a condo, a timeshare, etc.), you can still use a small estates procedure, but it's a bit more complicated.
If the "gross value" of your father's estate is more than $100,000 then you will need to initiate a probate proceeding in the county where he lived. I have handled probates in many California counties, and would be happy to assist you with it.
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.
In addition to the responses above if you were listed as a beneficiary on your dads banking account, or insurance policies you can collect by showing a death certificate. But if you are talking about a significant amount of property then you will need to open a probate to transfer the ownership of the property. Your first step will be to gather information on what your father owned and then take the time to meet with an attorney for a free consultation.
Feel free to email me directly if you have any further questions or would like a free legal consultation.
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Legal Information is Not Legal Advice
My answer provides information about the law based on the limited information provided in the questions asked and is not intended to be legal advice. The law differs in each jurisdiction and may be interpreted or applied differently depending on the location or situation. I highly recommend that you consult with an attorney to discuss the specific details of your situation so you can get legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances. The information in my answer is for educational and information purposes only, and is not legal advice or legal opinions. The answer provided to the question asked does not constitute a lawyer-client relationship.
I agree that your first step is to determine what your father owned and what he owed. Check his records. The rules as to what you need and what you will have to do to transfer into your name are different for real estate, bank accounts, life insurance, securities and qualified plans or Ira's. The more information you can locate the better. Be sure to determine what bills are unpaid and check the mail carefully to ascertain of there are assets or bills you might not otherwise be aware of.
Once all the data is available, take them with you to consult with an attorney. Unless the assets are small in magnitude, you will want to seek counsel for assistance in understanding the rules and what you have to do. Every effort should be made to avoid a formal probate if possible (assuming you are not concerned about potential liabilities), but often this is simply not possible.
You do need an attorney with knowledge in the estate and probate field, not just a general practice attorney.
It's unfortunate these matters are complex, but our legal systems are designed to protect creditors and beneficiaries, and to assure everyone gets what they are supposed to.
If you have not already done so, you should contact an attorney who specializes in probate law. If your father resided in California, the State Bar of California certifies attorneys as specialists in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law. If you cannot obtain a referral from someone you know and trust, I suggest that you check the State Bar of California's website.
This response does not constitute legal advice and is not intended to create any attorney-client relationship.