What is Probate and How Do I Start Probating A Loved One’s Estate?

What is probate, how does it relate to death and assets, and how should you start the probate process?

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.

The court will appoint someone to handle the matters related to the estate. Depending on certain circumstances, we refer to that person as one of the following:

  • Executor
  • Administrator
  • Administrator with Will Annexed

During this process, the person appointed by the court will have certain responsibilities and duties. One duty is to provide notice to beneficiaries and creditors that the person has passed away. Creditors have a certain amount of time during the probate process to make claims for debt repayment that the deceased owed them. In addition the creditors will give notice to various government entities to ensure there are no outstanding debts.

The person appointed will collect the assets, pay all the debts, taxes and expenses of the estate and after asking the court to review his accountings, he will request permission from the court to distribute what remains of the assets to the beneficiaries. After asset distribution the probate case can close.

How Much Does Probate Cost?

The probate process is a rather expensive one when compared to the cost of creating a living trust and other estate planning documents. But for those who have not done any planning before their death, the probate process is necessary for loved ones to inherit assets.

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 is entitled to $13,000 in statutory fees at the probate’s closing. You do not need to pay the attorney out of your pocket. This fee comes out of the estate and is only paid when the judge reviews the probate case and orders the attorney’s payment. This $13,000 value will increase as the value of the estate increases, regardless of the liabilities of the estate.

In addition, there are other probate costs. These costs include filing fees, bond fees, and publication fees. The costs can be anywhere between $500 to $2,000 for an uncontested probate case. In comparison, the cost of an estate plan is no where near the cost of probate and for this reason and others, most people decided to plan ahead and create a comprehensive estate plan with certain tools that avoid the probate process.

How long does Probate last?

For a simple probate, the timeframe is anywhere between 9 to 18 months, depending on several factors.

How do I start the Probate process if my loved one has passed away?

Probate requires attorney assistance because of these complications. This attorney must be experienced in probate proceedings and most importantly familiar with the probate courts. Contact our office for a free consultation to receive more information on how to begin the probate process.

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