Probate is the court-supervised administration of a decedent’s estate. Not all estates have to be probated, and even for those that do, some of the assets are exempt from the process. For instance, assets avoid probate if they are in joint tenancy; if they are in a Living Trust; or if they have a specified beneficiary.
The bottom line is this: Probate is a lengthy, complicated and often frustrating process, made all the more difficult by the grief that accompanies losing a loved one. In California, it generally takes between 8 and 12 months. Fees are set by statute in the California Probate Code and can be quite costly. We can show you a number of ways to avoid probate altogether. We can also shepherd your family through this difficult process with compassion and sensitivity.
If you choose to create just a will, your estate will most likely have to go through probate. Probate is a court-supervised process that protects the rights of beneficiaries and ensures the orderly and timely transfer of assets. The probate process in California has six main steps:
- Notification of interested parties. Most states require disclosure of the estate’s approximate value as well as the names and addresses of interested parties. These include all beneficiaries named in the will, natural heirs and creditors.
- Appointment of an executor. If you haven’t named an executor, the court will appoint one to oversee the estate’s liquidation and distribution.
- Inventory of assets. Essentially, all assets you owned or controlled at the time of your death need to be accounted for.
- Payment of claims. The type and length of notice required to establish a deadline for creditors to file their claims vary by state. If a creditor doesn't file its claim on time, the claim generally is barred.
- Filing of tax returns. This includes the individual’s final income taxes and the estate’s income taxes.
- Distribution of residuary estate. After the estate has paid debts and taxes, the executor can distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries and close the estate.
Guardianships and Conservatorships
Guardianships and Conservatorships are legal processes in which the rights and property of a person deemed incapable of managing his or her own affairs are exercised by another adult. California uses the term Guardianship in cases involving minors (children under 18) and Conservatorship for situations involving adults (18 and over). Choosing an appropriate Guardian or Conservator is obviously a critical decision, since it involves both emotional and financial well being. We have the experience, understanding and compassion to help you select an appropriate Guardian or Conservator, and provide expert legal counsel to them.
To learn more, please visit our Probate website or contact us directly!