Probate – Understanding California Probate

Probate following husband's deathCalifornia Probate is easy to avoid – if you take a little time in the natural course of your day-to-day life to catalog what you own and pay attention to how you own it. If you choose to walk mindlessly through life —like so many do— a probate court proceeding is in your survivor’s future. Probate results in a costly, time-consuming, burdensome, and frustrating experience for the family members you leave behind.

What is Probate?

What is Probate? – “Probate” comes from Latin. In a nutshell, “Probate” means “to prove.” When a person leaves a will, an appointed Executor or Administrator has to prove to a probate court that the will is valid.

What is the Probate Process?

Losing a loved one is an emotional and difficult time for family and friends. Those left behind must then figure out how to legally transfer or inherit property from the loved one who has died.

Unfortunately, in order to do this, you must usually go to court. Adding yet more stress at a sad time, you must work with the courts. In some cases, family members may be able to transfer property from the estate of someone who has died without having to go to court. You should contact a competent probate attorney to figure out whether you need to go to court or if your situation qualifies for a faster procedure.

In California, probate is a court-supervised process where the final will of a deceased person (decedent) is proved to be valid; where the provisions of the final will are given effect, where an executor is appointed, and where the decedent’s estate is distributed to named beneficiaries. If the decedent died without a will, the estate will be distributed to the decedent’s “next of kin” in accordance with California’s law of intestate succession.

When a loved one or relative passes away, a probate attorney can help file a petition of probate with the court for an order that officially appoints the executor. This process is designed to provide notice to creditors, beneficiaries, and other interested parties sufficient time to file claims against the estate. A lawyer has the experience and tools necessary to locate long-lost heirs to give them notice as is required to satisfy the probate requirements.

What is an Executor?

Executor Oversees the Process – The Executor of an estate is the person that is named in the will as the person the decedent wants to administer the will and to ensure that their final wishes are carried out as specified in the will. The Executor is entitled to hire a Probate Lawyer for help during the entire Probate Administration process. The costs of a Probate Lawyer is deemed by the Probate Code to be paid from the assets of the Estate – not out of the Executor’s personal pocket.

What are the Duties of Executor

Once you are appointed as executor, the duties of executor are to legally take charge of the estate. It is the executor’s duty to list, document and collect the decedent’s assets. You must also seek to inventory all outstanding debts by going through files, bills, mail, statements, etc. It is the executor’s duty to keep everything current and “ship shape” as if your were the decedent. You need to pay or settle any bills, rent, mortgage, and utilities to ensure that the decedent’s estate is protected throughout the process. Your duties as Executor could go from 12 to 24 months.

Many Executors have a Probate Lawyer Help Out

Most first time executors are already overwhelmed. Most of us are stressed each year doing our own tax returns, and yes, you must also compile and file necessary tax returns for the decedent as well. Having a probate lawyer help will take a lot of these burdens off your plate, and the statutory fees for the attorney’s services are paid from the estate.

In addition to tax returns, should any creditors send in claims forms, you must review them and accept or reject them. If necessary, you may decide to sell some of the decedent’s property to pay any legitimate and outstanding debts or taxes owed. But be careful. The sale or liquidation of significant assets may need to be approved by the court with notice to all heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors so that any potential objections may be heard. Many legal battles erupt from the liquidation of a decedent’s assets. Once the estate’s business is wrapped up, you, as the executor, will petition to close the estate stating succinctly what you have done and how you propose to distribute any remaining assets. At the time you petition to close the estate, all concerned parties will again get official notice to ensure there are no objections.

Responsibilities of the Appointed Executor

Following the filing of the petition, a hearing is scheduled to resolve any issues should anyone contest the will or object to the petition. If there is a legitimate will, and if the will is upheld, the appointed executor will manage all aspects of the estate, including:

  • Inventorying assets
  • Paying creditors, bills, & taxes
  • Managing real property/business
  • Filing an accounting

Once the appointed executor completes all of his or her required duties, most often with the help and guidance of a probate lawyer, a petition is filed to distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.

Following are just some of the common probate matters we can assist you with:

  • Probate Litigation & Will Disputes
  • Probate Disputes
  • Probate Administration
  • Understanding California Probate
  • Understanding Probate Costs
  • Can Probate Be Avoided?
  • How to avoid probate

Probate Lawyers in Los Angeles California

We are a long-established Los Angeles County California law firm serving clients in Los Angeles and beyond. We are ready to help you to carry out your probate duties with a view to avoiding mishaps and upsets. If you are tasked with overseeing an estate we can help. Likewise, if you are a beneficiary or creditor unhappy about a will or trust, or about the administration of a probate case, we would be delighted if you call us at (562) 265-1218 to discuss your probate matter.