It sounds to me like you have a lot of questions which a qualified probate attorney could assist you with. There are many wonderful CA probate attorneys here on AVVO which you could consult with.
To answer your questions generally:
1. probate is typically opened in the county in which the decedent was a resident at death
2. if there are questions as to value of property (of any type) you should retain a certified appraiser
3. typically the probate court can tell you the rules for publication when you go to probate the will
This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided here is informational in nature only. This attorney may not be licensed in the jurisdiction which you have a question about so the answer could be only general in nature. Visit Steve Zelinger's website: http://www.stevenzelinger.com/
Venue (the courthouse location where the probate action may be filed) is usually set in the district where the decedent died. IN Los Angeles County it may be proper to file for probate of the Will in the central district of Los Angeles or in Pomona. As you complete the initial form for probate, an estimate of the value of personal property is sufficient (estimate cash, bank accounts, stock or mutual fund accounts, jewelry, cars, art or antiques, tools, and any income from rents or dividends) and is required for purposes of setting a bond. If a bond is required, there is usually a bond company representative at the courthouse that will assist a self-represented party to secure a probate bond. If not, call Bond Services of California, LLC and they can help you.
Once a personal representative is appointed, the California Courts appoint a "Probate Referee" which are appraisers appointed by the State, to whom you will be required to submit a complete inventory for appraisal purposes. The appointed probate referee is usually named by the court and the name and address will appear on your court order admitting the Will to probate. Filing an inventory and appraisal is required in a probate proceeding. It will be prepared, submitted to the referee and upon its return with the appraisal of the assets by the referee, you must file it with the court.
Prior to the hearing on probate, you must publish a specified notice. The form is entitled:
"Notice of Death of (name of Decedent) and Petition to Administer Estate". It is a California Judicial Council Form. It must be published in an "adjudicated newspaper of general circulation" in the geographic area where the decedent lived during his lifetime. The purpose of the publication is to give notice to all, including potential heirs, beneficiaries and creditors.
You can call a local newspaper and ask for "Legal Advertising", be sure to inquire if they are "adjudicated" for legal publications. They will likely give you a quote between $200 and $500. Lastly, if you have problems with this, call the "California Newspaper Service Bureau" who may assist you with publication or the "Los Angeles Metropolitan News".
A probate lawyer would be the best to assist you as the technicalities of probate are many. An effective probate lawyer can handle all, and you may never "have" to go to court, although you may always attend any proceeding. The fees are set by statute and nothing is required or allowed "up front" except a deposit for costs to pay the court fees, publication, probate referee fees. If there is cash in the estate, these costs may be reimbursed to the party advancing the costs.
Diana J. Carloni, Esq.
Efficient, Effective, Excellent Representation
The foregoing answer identifies legal issues and matters of which the reader should be concerned in taking steps to resolve the problem. The reader is urged to seek legal advice from a competent lawyer versed in the subject matter for a full opinion. This answer does not create an attorney client relationship with the individual asking the question nor any other person reviewing and accepting the preliminary opinion expressed herein. It is not intended to be a comprehensive opinion on the issues and thus should not be solely relied upon when taking action.
Whether or not the Pomona Probate Court is the proper venue to file the Probate Petition in depends on what part of El Monte the decedent resided in at the time of his/her death. For most of El Monte, the proper venue is the Pomona Courthouse South. For some of El Monte and North El Monte, the proper venue is the Pasadena Courthouse. For South El Month, the proper venue is the El Monte Courthouse. I have attached a link to the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s filing locator for your reference.
Is your friend also named as the proposed executor in the decedent’s will? If so, then, as Ms. Carloni states, your friend can estimate the value and type of personal property until an inventory and appraisal has been completed. Once the hearing on the Petition has occurred and the order for Probate has been made, the court will assign a Probate Referee. The Probate Referee appraises all non-cash property. If your friend is appointed as the executor, then she/she will be issued Letters Testamentary. These letters will allow her to collect the estate assets and appraise all cash assets.
The requirements for publication are contained in Probate Code § 8121(a). Basically, the publication must be in a newspaper of general circulation where the decedent resided or owned property at the time of his/her death. The time constraints and number of publications are also contained in this code section. Although there is no local agency that could assist with this, newspapers that handle these publications are familiar with the code requirements.
Also, even if your friend is not named as the executor, it is possible for him/her to be named as the estate administrator if the proposed executor refuses, is unable, or unqualified to act. There are additional requirements under the Probate Code that must be complied with in order to successfully complete a Probate and distribute the estate. The process can sometimes be daunting. Your friend may want to consider consulting with an attorney for assistance with this.
Disclaimer: The above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. My responses are intended to provide general information about the question posted. I am licensed to practice in the state of California. The information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for conferring with or hiring a competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your state.