How to Probate a Loved One’s Estate

Before we get into the details of probate, first we need to address the question of what is probate?

Probate is the legal process of transferring property at a person’s death.

In California if you die without a Will in place or with a Will in place, your estate will go through a legal court process called Probate.

So if you have a friend or family member who passed away owning assets valued at over $150,000 and they had no will in place, his or her assets will go through the probate process.

Or, if that same friend or family member created a Will, the same result will occur.  This may be confusing to most because there is a general public conception that if a person has a Will in place, they avoid the probate process, but this is simply not true.  The difference between the two scenarios is that in the former, (dying without a will) the court will look to the probate code for instructions on how to distribute the assets. In the latter, the Judge will distribute the assets according to the person’s Will.

Probate is a lengthy process, taking anywhere from 1 to 2 years to complete from start to finish.

Probate is extremely costly. The probate attorney fees are determined by law, meaning, they are based on the total assets in the estate. So, for example, if the estate is valued at $500,000, the attorney will be entitled to $13,000 in statutory fees at the close of the probate. These are fees that are set by law. Add to that filing fees, bond fees, publication fees, and more. The costs can be anywhere between $500 to $2,000 for an uncontested probate case.

In addition, probate is a public process. All information filed is a part of the public records, so everyone will know the amount of assets you had, the types of assets you had and who you wanted to leave it to and if you had a disinheritance in your will, the public will know about the people you wished to disinherit.

First step in the probate process is to file a petition for probate with the county court. Depending on a number of factors, you will need to determine the correct courthouse in which to file the petition. After that, the court will appoint a person to be in charge of the estate, following a confirmation that certain legal requirements like bond and notice have been abided by.

There are several steps in the probate process, including giving notice to creditors, liquidating assets, accounting and more. In the end a petition for distribution will be reviewed by the judge and if all the legal requirements have been satisfied, the court will allow for you to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries of your loved one. It is a lengthy and rather complicated legal process.

If you are currently trying to administer a loved one’s estate or need to start the administration process, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. We are here to help and always ready to discuss your legal questions and provide you with solutions.

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