How does a decedent’s estate get administered after someone dies? First, the probate process in California cannot be started until after someone has died. Although full probate can be filed immediately, the smaller estate alternative proceedings require waiting from 40 days to 6 months before the heirs can file the proceedings. In this regard, depending on how large or small the estate is, probating a more modest estate can be relatively quick and straightforward. On the other hand, probating larger estates is a more lengthy and complicated process. This article explains what you need to know to begin the probate process in California.