Probate Attorney in Laguna Hills, California
Dealing with the death of a spouse, a family member is always difficult. In addition, administering a deceased loved one’s estate makes it even more challenging. Probate is one of the many things that you’ll have to deal with.
At Trevino Law, we have extensive experience in handling probate cases and other legal issues in estate planning. Our credible Laguna Hills estate planning attorneys will provide the care and legal guidance your family needs to get through this difficult time. We understand how complex and overwhelming the probate process is, therefore, we will strive to guide you throughout the whole process.
Call us now at (949) 755-8542 and schedule an initial consultation.
What is Probate?
Probate is a legal process of managing a deceased person’s estate. If the deceased person has a will, the court recognizes the will and appoints the executor or personal representative who will administer the estate. A will is one of the estate planning documents used to communicate the intentions of the decedent including how to administer the estate. The probate process involves validating a will and paying off debts before distributing the assets to the chosen beneficiaries and heirs.
Probate laws may vary from state to state. The process may vary if a person dies with or without a will. If the deceased person died without having a will, they die “intestate.” In this situation, the court follows state intestacy laws to distribute the assets of the decedent. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a reliable Laguna Hills probate lawyer to help you go through the probate process in compliance with the state laws.
What Goes Through Probate?
The probate process protects the interests of the heirs and protects the estate from fraud. Whether probate is required depends on the type and value of the property, how it is owned, and what the state laws are. A competent probate attorney in Laguna Hills can help you determine if you need to undergo the probate process. He or she will assist the surviving loved ones in knowing the total estate value, as some assets may be exempted from probate.
In California, many estates go through probate court, even when there is a will. When a person dies and leaves a last will and testament, a probate is required to prove the validity of the will and implement its provisions. A deceased person who has created a will is known as a testator. When a testator dies, the executor of the will is responsible for initiating the probate process.
Property and assets that are only in your name are part of your probate estate. Most states allow a certain amount of property to pass free of probate or through a simplified probate procedure. Certain assets and property will not go through probate. For instance, if the assets of the deceased are in joint tenancy with someone else, survivorship property, or living trust, those assets do not require probate.
Keep in mind that a probate court handles assets that do not have a named owner. Therefore, if you plan early, you can significantly reduce your probate estate. In estate planning, more important than minimizing probate is avoiding other legal issues that can make probate difficult, such as lawsuits by heirs and beneficiaries. If one or more heirs dispute the will, or if someone not named in the will claims part or all of the estate, the dispute might end in court for a judge to resolve. Probate litigation can be lengthy, stressful, and expensive.
What is the Probate Process in California?
In probate, the court oversees the process of preparing the inventory of a deceased person’s estate and settling all outstanding debts. Then, the estate is closed and can be distributed. When there is a will, any trusts specified in the will must be established, and estate assets must be distributed as the will requests.
To probate an estate in California, an executor of the estate must follow these general steps:
File a petition to begin the probate
An executor or representative of the estate will start the probate process by filing the death certificate with the probate court along with the will in the county probate court where the deceased person lived at the time of their death. If there is a will, the court validates the will to ensure that it is the authentic and intended will of the deceased or also called the testator.
On the other hand, if there is no will, then the decedent is intestate. The court initiates procedures for intestate probate, which take longer than if there was a will. When you die without a will, your beneficiaries will be determined by the law and will usually be the next of kin. Therefore, creating a will is important if you want to appoint a specific person to be the executor of your will and the beneficiaries of your estate.
Appoint an executor
The next step is for a probate court judge to schedule a hearing to approve the executor who will administer the estate. In general, the judge officially appoints the executor or personal representative named in the will. If there is no will, the probate judge will appoint a person (usually a family member) to handle the estate.
If you’re approved as the executor, the court will officially open the probate case and you will now be able to carry out your duties on behalf of the deceased’s estate. You will receive “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration” which authorizes you to perform executor duties. You can use these letters to contact banks, identify beneficiaries, and notify creditors of the probate administration. Furthermore, since you will handle money, property, and assets, the court may require you to post a probate bond. The estate pays for the cost of the bond.
Inventory the estate assets
As the executor, you have to collect, inventory, and appraise all assets that are subject to probate and present them to the probate court. You must determine the value of all probate assets. These assets may include bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, real estate, collectibles, jewelry, and other valuables.
Pay valid debts
As the personal representative of the decedent, you are required to pay any valid creditor claims. You must review all outstanding debts and decide whether they must be paid. You can dispute or settle creditor claims on behalf of the estate. Moreover, you’ll also need to pay all applicable estate taxes, as well as file a final income tax return on the estate.
Distribute remaining assets to beneficiaries
With all claims, debts, and expenses paid, you’ll distribute the remaining property to the rightful beneficiaries and heirs according to the wishes expressed in the will. If there is no will, then the distribution will be done according to state intestacy laws.
Close the estate
Once everything has been distributed, you need to submit a final accounting report to the court and then ask for the estate to be closed. The reports must include the list of all the assets of the estate, the total income generated from the assets, a record of all debts paid, and the distributions made to beneficiaries or heirs. When the court approves this report, the judge will discharge you from the probate duties and formally close the probate estate.
Hire an experienced Laguna Hills probate lawyer now!
Dealing with the loss of a loved one can cause extreme emotional stress. In addition, one must also deal with the legal aspects of the loss including probate. The assets of the decedent must be managed in a manner consistent with state laws and following the directions they have stated in their will when they were alive. Probate is one of the most complex areas of law. The probate process involves a l ot of documentation and steps to be followed according to the probate rules.
If you are handling the distribution of an estate of a person who died with or without a will, it is advisable to seek legal help from our experienced Laguna Hills probate lawyers at Trevino law. Our estate planning law firm will guide you through each stage of the probate process. We will work with you by going through all of the possible options ensuring that your case is handled with the utmost care and consideration for your needs.