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

What is probate and why do people use that word when speaking about death and assets?

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 and depending on certain circumstances, that person will be called 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 of which will be to provide notice to beneficiaries and creditors that the person has passed away. Creditors of the deceased individual have a certain amount of time during the probate process to make claims for repayment of debt that was owed to them by the deceased individual. In addition the creditors, notice will be given 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. Once the assets are distributed, the probate case can be closed.

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 an absolute necessary in order for asset to be inherited by loved ones.   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. You do not need to pay the attorney out of your pocket because this fee comes out of the estate and is only paid when the judge reviews the probate case and orders the attorney to be paid. This $13,000 value will increase as the value of the estate increases, regardless of the liabilities of the estate. In addition to the attorney statutory fees, there are also costs associated with probate, including 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 is rather complicated and requires the assistance of an attorney 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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