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Probate is a court process which determines the valuation and distribution of a deceased property. The probate process can take place with or without a will.
Though the Probate Court, an estate goes through the legal process of transferring ownership from the deceased to the beneficiary. The probate process ensures the deceased will or estate plan is valid, all debts are paid and properties have clear title. The probate court identifies the legal beneficiaries and then distributes what assets remain according to the will, trust or estate plan. If there is no will, the probate judge will follow local applicable California law.
In most cases an executor will appear before the probate court for a supervised distribution of assets. The executor affirms the validity of the will and presents the court with a detailed list of the assets, property, debts and the desired distribution to beneficiaries.
Probates are in the jurisdiction of the Superior Court of California. Probate administration is usually established in the County of the decedent’s last residence, or in the County where the decedent owned property (or other assets).
The cost of the probate process may be as low as a few hundred dollars or as high as several thousand dollars depending on a variety of factors, including the value of the estate and the complexity of the assets and liabilities. A well organized will or estate plan may reduce probate expenses or allow an estate to pass to the beneficiaries without involvement of the probate court.
During a probate administration an executor or administrator is appointed to be responsible for the estate. The executor must organize and present a detailed accounting of all probate assets and liabilities. A complete accounting is necessary since the executor can be held personally liable by the Probate Court.
Probate is not always necessary. There are steps that can be taken to avoid probate entirely. Small estates with well drafted wills are not typically probated. Estates comprised of transferable assets like life insurance, 401(k)s, IRAs and joint tenancy properties are typically not probated. Assets owned through a living trust, owned by two or more people and surviving spouse situations are not always probated.
Due to the emotional nature, the length of time and the heavy burden on the executor the chances of a will dispute increase. A beneficiary may feel the estate is being mishandled or assets are not been managed efficiently. A beneficiary may also be dissatisfied with the distribution of assets. A beneficiary may also discover or suspect fraud in the execution of the will or in the creation of the will. All these could lead to a will contest or to probate litigation.
To avoid disputes and reduce the duration of a probate, use a knowledgeable probate lawyer with experience in trust and estate law, probate administration, estate taxation, fiduciary duties, and proper probate process.
A qualified probate attorney can enable the executor and beneficiaries to go through the probate court process as quickly and efficiently as possible. An experienced probate lawyer can assist in organizing, cataloging, managing, liquidating and recording assets and valuables that are complex and emotional in nature. Probate Attorneys can assist with estate tax liabilities and property transfers.
Executors are often given unlimited access to and authority over the assets of the estate. If there is fraud, or the executor is grossly incompetent the funds can be very difficult to recover. In situations where a beneficiary suspects fraud in the creation of the will such as Undue Influence or Testamentary Capacity issues, an experienced Probate Litigation attorney can tie up assets and prevent a corrupt executor from misappropriating estate assets, until the dispute is concluded.
With a probate administration lawyer to assist you through the probate process, you have the opportunity to ensure that your legal rights are fully protected. This applies to both the beneficiary and the executor. A probate administration lawyer can guide you through the process and address any disputes to avoid probate litigation issues.
To find an attorney experienced in Probate Court cases contact Attorney Search Network. We can help you find a Probate lawyer who will help with your case.
If you have any questions about the information provided above, please contact us. Call us toll free at (800) 215-1190 or fill out out online form for your Wills and Estate Planning lawyer referral.