Weiner Law sees numerous clients who unfortunately have lost a loved one and are navigating the challenging legal process that follows, including probate administration. Adding a court proceeding on top of grief can be devastating, but our skilled and compassionate attorneys strive to make the process easier on you. If you have lost a loved one and are now having to navigate the probate court process, we are here to help.
Here is more information about the probate court process, the estate items that do not need to enter probate, and how to make the estate planning process easier.
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What Is Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised process in which a person’s property is distributed and their estate is settled after the person has passed. The process also involves the appointment of an executor or personal representative who will manage the process and distribute the property as set out in the will if there is one. If the decedent does not leave a will, their property is distributed in accordance with the California laws of intestate succession. During this process, the court assesses the decedent’s assets to determine their total value, and the executor takes responsibility for which taxes and debts these assets will cover.
Once the executor completes the initial asset distribution and pays outstanding taxes and debts, they distribute the remainder among those individuals or organizations specified in the will, if there is one. Probate is a supervised process aiming to ensure that the will’s beneficiaries receive the property bequeathed to them in the will. If no will or trust exists, the process could be more complicated.
Key Terms Used In Probate Administration:
- Decedent – the deceased person
- Will – a legally binding document signed by the deceased prior to their passing to establish their wishes regarding their assets or titles
- Beneficiaries – the individuals or organizations who will inherit property
- Executor – the individual appointed in the will to act as the estate’s legal representative
The Probate Court Process
The attorneys at Weiner Law know that the probate process can be confusing and overwhelming. Our clients benefit from having a compassionate attorney in their corner when they handle these administrative duties. The right support can make everything seem less of a burden, and our team is available to help you through the process whenever you need us.
Even when the decedent does leave a will, there are numerous steps required to complete the probate process in California, a state with an exceptionally demanding probate process. Without a will the probate can often be even more complex.
The probate process typically follows these eight steps:
- Submit a copy of the death certificate. An executor or probate attorney will inform the courts about the death by submitting a copy of the death certificate to start the process.
- Validate the will. The court must authenticate the will to ensure all formalities were followed in accordance with the law.
- Select probate representative. The court then officially appoints or accepts the executor who will oversee the probate process and settle the estate with the beneficiaries. If there is no will or named executor, the court will appoint a personal representative instead.
- Post a bond. The bond amount protects beneficiaries against errors that an executor or personal representative may make during the probate administration process.
- Inform beneficiaries and creditors. An executor or personal representative must take responsibility for this duty as one of the most significant undertakings of probate. It involves finding and informing named parties about the will or death, status of the will, and entitlements.
- Determine the value of assets and property. An estate assessment accounts for all the decedent’s possessions. An executor may need to hire a professional appraiser for larger estates, including inventorying assets to determine the value of the estate.
- Pay all the deceased’s fees and debts. The funeral expenses usually come out of the estate, and the executor will also have to pay for medical expenses, taxes, and unpaid debts from the fund.
- Distribute assets. Afterward, the representatives distribute the rest of the estate to the named beneficiaries in the will. If there is no will, distributions will be made to the decedent’s closest relatives as determined by California law.
Is It Possible To Avoid Probate?
Yes. While probate is a long and drawn-out court process that most people want to avoid, prior planning is required to ensure that happens. Having a sound strategy in place will help you ensure your estate falls into the right hands. Probate court is sometimes helpful in preserving your assets for your beneficiaries, especially with proper planning and paperwork like:
- Establishing a living will and trust. A signed will is a great place to start, ensuring that your wishes hold after your passing. Read about our Trust Administration services.
- Distributing assets ahead of time. Giving your assets to your loved ones before death is another excellent option for preventing misunderstandings later.
- Keeping an estate small expedites the process if it has to enter probate.
How We Help You Through The Probate Process
Hard work accumulates a lifetime of assets that can provide a safety net for those you support after your passing. When you choose us to help plan for your estate, it is a deeply personal process. Most people want to pass on a lasting legacy to their children or other beneficiaries, and our team established the firm to help our clients transition their assets as simply as possible.
A trustworthy attorney from Weiner Law can ease the end-of-life transition for you and your family. We offer estate planning and probate administration services to ensure your loved ones can avoid a drawn-out court process. Although a named executor of an estate must still participate in the probate court process, Weiner Law can help every step of the way.
More About Essential Probate Administration
Most estates will go through the probate process unless there was a properly drafted trust in place and all assets were titled in the name of the trust before the decedent’s passing.
Here are a few frequently asked questions:
The executor will be responsible for the will and must inform beneficiaries and creditors of the decedent’s passing. They will also be the primary person who settles the estate.
The probate process is simpler or even preventable with a proper estate plan involving the creation of a trust. Proper planning alleviates strain on your loved ones who will not need to decipher a confusing will or deal with court proceedings while they grieve your loss.
Creating a trust and properly transferring assets into that trust avoids the need for probate court entirely.
When estates are smaller, Weiner Law often sees probate finish in under a year. Six to nine months is a typical probate process. Larger estates or complicated situations could take several years. Contact Weiner Law to discuss your specific situation for a more precise estimate.