Affordable Probate Lawyers Serving Los Angeles

What is Probate?

Los Angeles Probate Lawyers - Sad HeirThe California Probate process is in place to prove whether a Will is valid or not —if there is a Will— and to have a probate judge supervise the appointing of an executor or administrator who will be tasked to oversee the listing, valuation and management of the estate property. That appointed person will also be responsible for locating, notifying and paying any legitimate creditors, paying the taxes of the deceased, and then distributing any remaining property as put forth in the decedent’s will. If the person died with no will (i.e. ‘intestate’), the remaining estate assets are to be distributed in accordance with California state law.

Probate is a long, complex drawn out process that sneaks up on the heirs and beneficiaries of those who have passed away without a will, or with a simple will –but no living trust. The Probate process will take from 9 to 18 months. More complicated estates, those where there are ‘will contests,’ beneficiary challenges, or creditor claims can take years. If you find yourself part of a Probate process, it is important that you seek the experienced help of a Los Angeles probate lawyer who can be ‘on-call’ to coach you what to do when needed.

When a family member passes away:

NO Will – If there NO Will and the estate if more than $150,000, you will probably have to go through Probate where the assets of the deceased are located, identified, managed and distributed.

Will – If there was a Will (and NO Living Trust) the estate might still need to go through Probate proceedings where the assets of the deceased are located, identified, managed and distributed.

Living Trust – If there was a Living Trust, it is likely that there is no need for Probate, though a named “successor trustee” will have to step up to administer the distribution of the deceased’s assets.

Probate is California’s ‘Default’ Estate Plan

California's Default Estate PlanProbate is what we call “California’s Default Estate Plan” —that is, an estate plan written by the State of California that kicks in for those people who procrastinated or were just so busy with life that they never stopped long enough to save their heirs, spouse, kids and grand kids from a long and drawn out process where government-paid employees must butt into the lives of the survivors deciding who gets what, how much, and when they get it. If you are in this predicament, call us at (562) 265-1218, we can help you.

When someone objects to a Will, Trust or person Administering Estate?

Squabbling sisters“Will contests” are quite common. Will Contests are where a family member or beneficiary objects to the will before or during the probate process. In order to contest a Will, one has to have legal “standing” to be heard by the probate judge. Will Contests often occurs when, for example, one child is left a smaller share of the estate than other siblings, or when allotted distribution of money or property to children has changed from a prior Will to a later Will with no clear understanding as to “why” the will was changed. That suggests ‘undue influence’ from a family member or care-taker attempting to take advantage.

Trust challenges are less common as there was a process before death where significant family energy was invested creating a Trust, moving assets into the trust and usually the beneficiaries were part of the process (or at least apprised of their standing and expectations).

Other common disputes – are disagreements from heirs and beneficiaries about how the person designated to serve as Executor is handling the money, property or being unfair. If you see yourself in any of these scenarios, call us at (562) 265-1218, and let’s talk your situation through –right now– to see if you are being victimized. In such situations, time is especially critical if the estate is being plundered and you are being ripped off.

So… You were appointed the Trustee, Executor or Administrator

appointed the trustee executorYou are facing a lot of work. That’s why state law says that you are entitled to be paid for your work. The state also allows you to pay an attorney from the funds in the estate to help you —when you are overwhelmed by a needed report for the court, or a court appearance. If you have been appointed the trustee, executor or administrator of a Will or Trust recently, you likely find yourself you will soon find that the court deadlines and paperwork involved in settling an estate can seem unending. You can have one of us act as (1) your on-call coach who will be available anytime you need help, to prepare a court-mandated filing, or to appear in court on your behalf, OR, (2) you can actually one of us to join your team for the entire probate process where we will take over the entire process (under your supervision). You still are do a fee paid by the estate, and any fees we charge are to come from the estate too. The fees are set by law, so it is very simple.

Lawyer Fees Paid by Estate  —  Some Cases Taken on Contingency

In most probate matters, attorneys’ fees are paid from the assets of the estate upon final distribution making it painless to reach out for help if you have been appointed the Executor, Administrator or Trustee. In some probate matters, such as ‘creditor claims,’ ‘will contests,” or litigation of wills and trusts, one of our four lawyers would be legally able to consider a contingency fee basis to help you.

Will Contests and Challenges Are Often Decided by the Size of One’s Wallet

Unfortunately, will contests and challenges to an estate Executor or Administrator are often decided by the resources of the individuals. The person with less money may not be able to take a “will contest” case through court to its conclusion, though the lawyer’s fees required might be only a small fraction of the potential inheritance! People with limited cash often decide —reluctantly— to not pursue an otherwise solid claim because they cannot afford to hire a competent probate litigation lawyer. Not only do we offer affordable legal fees normally, we are open to credit card payments, flexible fee arrangements, and —sometimes— can take on will contests and other probate litigation on a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not have to worry about legal fees and litigation costs as the will contest or probate litigation case works through the the court challenge.

Avoiding Probate with a Living Trust

avoid probate with a Living TrustIf you are just now learning from a relative’s mistakes, that you too are destined for probate if something should happen to you, ask us about drafting you a Will or a simple Living Trust. Your home, cars, boat, RV, jewelry, guns and other assets can be held in a ‘Living Trust‘ which will then avoid the long and expensive Probate process. When the person who creates a Living Trust dies, all the assets that were moved to the trust (all paperwork) are distributed to the people that you choose, in the exact manner specified, without a government employee messing around in your private, confidential family business. Very smooth. Very straight-forward!

Living Trusts & companion documents offer many advantages

Living Trusts and the other estate planning documents that make up a person’s ‘estate plan’ provide for you if you become incapacitated in a car crash, or by a stroke or something. That’s why the trusts are called ‘LIVING’ Trusts. Living Trusts also allow the surviving beneficiary to take advantage of a “stepped up cost basis” that will reduce or eliminate frustrating capital gains taxes that often –if there is no trust– cause may beneficiaries to scramble about after the funeral to sell assets just to pay the IRS and State Tax Authorities. That is so sad! If your loved one set up an Estate Plan you are more blessed than you might ever know. They invested a little time, while alive, to give you the ultimate parting gift. You should consider doing that too.

Did You Use to Live in Southern California – Are You Now Out-of-State?

Do you live out of state?If you need a probate attorney in the Los Angeles area we are here for you. If you are an out-of-state relative or beneficiary of a local decedent and you find yourself needing qualified local legal help in the Los Angeles area to help you assert your rights because (1) you are being cut-out of your inheritance, or (2) you are being ignored by the person ‘in charge’ here, CALL US at (562) 265-1218. One of of us can immediately help you here in LA as your attorney without you having to go into debt traveling back and forth over the coming months.

“Help! I have a situation here.”

emergency estate documentsWe realize that there are some emergency situations where a single specific document is needed immediately. If you are unable to get it drafted, signed and witnessed before someone passes away, the result could be disastrous for your family and survivors.

We will make every attempt – to be here for you in those emotionally-trying times. We are often available to visit you or your loved one at home or even in a hospital room. Life is complicated and we take our clients situations seriously and with urgency and compassion.

Call To Schedule A FREE Consultation

Call us at (562) 265-1218 and we will get one of us attorneys on the phone immediately. If you are at work or unable to talk right now, please drop us a note using the quick contact form up a little bit on the left. We offer a FREE consultation by phone or in-person.

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We Come to You! — Home, Work, Hospital, Starbucks… It’s all good.

Meeting clients at local StarbucksSometimes it can be difficult or impractical to travel to a lawyer’s office. Sometimes it is more practical to meet at your home, or office where you have all the paperwork. No worries! We understand. Your home, your work, your local Starbucks; hospital, nursing home or assisted living facility — ALL are fine by us. We are traveling all over Los Angeles County every day anyway. Please do not hesitate to tell us where you’d like to meet.