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Probate Can Be Stressful – A Sacramento Probate Attorney Can Guide You Through It

No one wants to endure probate – but when beneficiaries have disagreements over a descendant’s estate, sometimes it’s unavoidable. I understand how challenging probate can be, as I have experienced it myself. My mom died without a will, and I ultimately had to handle this complicated legal issue at a very young age. However, this experience allows me to effectively advocate for my clients as an attorney at The Law Offices of Diane Anderson, as I understand the challenges and complicated emotions that can come with the process.

What Is Probate, And When Does It Occur In California?

Probate is when you have to go to court to transfer assets after a person dies. It takes place if your estate is worth more than $184,500 at the time of your death, including all assets – houses, cars, bank accounts and life insurance. Typically, the heirs want to sell the decedent’s house but cannot do so until they go through probate. In one case I handled, the heirs already had a buyer for the home and were in escrow until the title company asked them for the letters of administration. The person who had died was the one who owned the house, so the heirs weren’t able to sign the paperwork. If the estate is worth more than $184,500, you must go to probate to get permission to sell assets.

Steps To The California Probate Process

Here is what to do before engaging in probate in California:

Bring The Will To The Right People

After a descendant dies, the custodian of their will must bring the document to the probate clerk within one month of the descendant’s passing. They must also give their executor a copy of the descendant’s will.

Custodians must follow these steps, as failing could leave them legally liable.

Submit A Petition To The Probate Court

To start a probate case, the petitioner must file the case in probate court. They must submit the petition in the county where the descendant lived when they died.

If you are the petitioner, you will need a few additional forms to begin the process officially. I can help you obtain those forms and complete them in an accurate and timely manner.

Begin The Process

Once you submit all of the forms and paperwork, a probate judge clerk establishes the hearing date. Additionally, if you are the petitioner, you must also notify anyone involved in probate that you’ve initiated the process.

It can be easy to feel nervous about all the steps you need to take, especially as a petitioner. However, you don’t need to worry. I’ve helped countless Californians with this before, and I am here to help.

What Is Intestate Succession?

In California, intestate succession helps courts distribute property when the descendant does not have a will or they have certain assets that are not listed in their will. The goal of intestate succession is to get assets to the right heirs when those assets have no official designation.

Probate Vs. Nonprobate Assets: What’s The Difference?

Here is a definition of what both mean and the types of assets they include:

  • Probate assets: These can be subject to probate and get distributed by a judge who authorized them. Some examples of probate assets include real estate and other personal property.
  • Nonprobate assets: These can’t go through probate and instead go directly to designated beneficiaries. Some examples of these assets can include insurance policies, retirement accounts and certain bank accounts, such as Payable on Death (POD) accounts.

Figuring out which assets do and do not belong in probate can be more challenging than it looks. I can help you determine which assets do and do not qualify and help you figure out how to handle them. Call 209-717-6150 so we can get started today.

Is Probate Expensive?

The cost of probate in California often depends on the value of an estate. For example, a 4% fee is usually on the first $100,000. The more money someone has in their estate, the more costs they incur. However, the percentage of those fees tends to decrease. Knowing how much you’ll need to pay to a will’s executor and an attorney can be highly confusing, especially in California. I can guide you through the process to ensure everything is clear.

Common Misconceptions About Probate

You may feel anxious, overwhelmed or even frustrated about probate. It’s understandable why you would. You may have heard that it’s incredibly time-consuming, bureaucratic and stressful. While probate can be complicated and contentious, handling and navigating it can be easy when you have the right attorney. I have helped Californians like you navigate probate for many years. I’ve been in similar situations personally and helped countless others professionally. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from; I will work diligently to guide you through the process and help you seek the outcomes you want.

Is There More Than One Type Of Probate In California?

There are actually three different types of probates. Most people are familiar with the formal probate process. This is the typical process that an estate goes through, and it can take years to complete.

The other two common types of probate are summary or simple probate and probate by affidavit, both used for smaller estates. These processes are less involved and do not involve a court hearing. I can help you evaluate if one of these other types is well-suited for your situation and any other probate issues that may occur when using a nonformal probate process.

What Factors Can Make Probate More Complicated?

This process is already complex, and there are many factors that can make the process even more complicated. Things like difficult or missing beneficiaries, unusual estate assets, will contests, excessive debt, taxes and inaccurate records can add steps and difficulty to the probate process. Incomplete wills and estate plans can also create problems during the process. Naturally, high-value estates can take longer to go through the probate process as well. However, no matter how complicated, the right law firm and legal advice can smooth the process. I am well-versed in probate law and estate administration, and I can guide you through this process, no matter the circumstances.

How Long Does The Executor Have To Probate A Will?

Probate takes anywhere from six months to a couple of years. I have worked on cases where it took two years to finalize them. One of the main reasons it takes so long is that probate often involves selling or transferring the house, and you have to file paperwork at every stage to keep the court up to date about what you’re doing. There are also court hearings that you must attend – the original court hearing, a subsequent court hearing and then a final hearing where you account for everything you’ve done. That’s one reason having a living trust is so important: It avoids all the mess of going through probate.

Does A Surviving Spouse Who Is Not Named On A Property Still Need To Go Through Probate?

Yes. In fact, I had a case where the gentleman’s wife had died eight years prior, and he was now trying to create a trust. One of the properties he wanted to include wasn’t titled properly, so when his wife passed away, he got 50% and her two children got the other 50%. Real estate law is very nuanced, and people don’t always understand all the details. Often, it’s just about trying to clean up the paperwork. In this case, he wasn’t named on the property and there were children, so he was only entitled to half the property because California is a community property state. I couldn’t put that house in the trust until we got it straightened out. We had to go to court on what’s called a “succession of real property.” The kids had to sign off and say they didn’t want their share of the property because he was leaving it to them in his trust anyway.

How Can A Trust Help Avoid Probate?

You can specify in your will that you want all your assets to go to your trust, which is a form of estate planning. Another thing to bear in mind is that you don’t have to go through probate if your estate is worth less than $184,500. Of course, very few people know when they’re going to die, so unless they know they’re terminally ill, they can’t just start depleting their assets or they wouldn’t have anything to live on. For the few people who are terminally ill, I would advise them to start depleting the estate to bring it down below $184,500 and avoid probate. Trust administration is much less complex than estate administration.

How A Probate Attorney Can Help You

Here’s how an attorney can help you navigate probate:

If Someone Has A Will

A probate attorney can:

  • Serve as the executor of an estate if there isn’t one already
  • Advocate for your interests when contesting the validity of a will
  • Offer advice and guidance when navigating the probate process

If Someone Doesn’t Have A Will

A probate attorney can:

  • Name an individual as an estate’s administrator
  • Obtain renunciations or documents permitting the right to administer an estate from loved ones of the estate holder
  • Offer guidance and advice to new estate administrators throughout the probate process

Other Matters

A probate attorney can:

  • Prepare and submit the necessary documents to the probate court
  • Secure the possessions of the descendant, such as bank accounts, homes, vehicles and more
  • Get an appraisal of the descendant’s assets

There are many other things a probate attorney can help you with. Learn more about what I can do for you in your individual case. Set up a reduced fee consultation with my firm, The Law Offices of Diane Anderson, through my online contact form.

How Can A Sacramento Probate Attorney Help Avoid Disputes?

As stated above, an estate planning and probate lawyer can be a huge asset during the probate process. But there are even more ways an attorney can help save time, money and stress during probate.

Disputes, in particular, can take up a large amount of time during the probate and estate administration. Having a probate attorney there to guide you through the process can reduce the likelihood of disputes happening in the first place. An attorney can ensure that the estate plan and will are clear, validate or invalidate creditor claims and give legal advice and instructions during the distribution of assets.

Like in many other situations, the presence of a professional to provide clarity and guidance can greatly reduce the chances of vagueness, confusion and disagreement, therefore reducing the chance of disputes.

I Can Be Your Probate Lawyer – Call Today

For more information on probate, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling 209-717-6150 today.