Being named someone’s personal representative or executor comes with a lot of responsibility as this individual plays a crucial role during probate. If the estate is about to go through probate, you might feel slightly nervous or completely overwhelmed. Probate can feel daunting, which is understandable since it’s a complex area of law. Fortunately, there’s help available. The Davis probate lawyers at Pakpour Banks LLP can answer all your probate questions and help guide you through the process.   

How Long Does Probate Take?

Unfortunately, probate is often not a quick process. The length of time it takes to finalize probate can depend on the case’s complexity. Probate can take even longer in situations where the deceased did not leave a will. It’s not uncommon for standard probate to take over a year or even up to two years. You can expedite the process by hiring a skilled probate lawyer in Davis, CA.

How a Probate Lawyer Can Help You

Our Davis probate lawyers can help you with numerous aspects of probating an estate in Davis. Some of the most common duties include the following:

  • Securing assets that will be part of the probate,
  • Filing all required documentation,
  • Getting appraisals for the property,
  • Helping collect proceeds from life insurance policies,
  • Assisting with paying debts,
  • Overseeing the estate checking account,
  • Ensuring no inheritance tax is due,
  • Verifying no outstanding income tax issues,
  • Transferring assets to the intended beneficiaries, and
  • Helping with final disbursement of assets once all taxes and debts are paid.

We work for the executor and estate beneficiaries to help you resolve the decedent’s affairs. Our priority is to help you resolve any complex legal issues and ensure all debts and taxes are paid before any assets are distributed to beneficiaries.

How to Avoid Probate

Avoiding probate is possible, but only under certain circumstances. It’s also common to have certain assets that don’t need probate while others still need to go through the probate process before the executor can transfer the title. The only options to avoid traditional probate include the following scenarios.

Set Up a Living Trust

Setting up certain kinds of trusts can eliminate the need to go through probate. You need to designate one or more trustees to manage the trust and oversee the distribution of assets and title transfers after your death.

Have Joint Tenancy Ownership

Some assets may be held in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, such as a home, vehicle, or bank account. The surviving owner must provide a valid death certificate to initiate the title transfer process. 

Beneficiary Designations

Assets such as retirement accounts or life insurance policies have designated beneficiaries. These assets do not need to go through probate. The designated beneficiary needs to complete the form with the proper entity to receive access to the account.

Summary or Simplified Probate

People who did not have big estates when they passed might qualify for a simplified probate process. Simplified probate is only an option when the estate value is less than the court-specified amount, which is currently $166,250. You must include all real estate, personal property, retirement benefits, and insurance benefits that are part of the estate. This total does not include assets with designed beneficiaries.

What Happens in Probate Court?

Much of the probate process takes place outside of court, with the local probate court overseeing things. Before an executor can get started on their duties, the probate court must confirm the acting personal representative. The executor must ask the court to officially recognize them as the acting executor and provide the original will and death certificate. The executor should file probate in the county where the deceased lived at the time of their death.  

The court must also recognize the will as being valid. Questions on the will’s validity or challenges from potential heirs regarding the distribution of assets can significantly delay the probate process.

The executor’s job is to protect the assets and pay all estate debts. The executor may need to post a bond that protects the estate from losses that might result if the executor makes a mistake or mismanages the assets. The executor also needs to file for an estate taxpayer identification, known as an employer identification number or EIN. The next task is to get a bank account open for the estate.

One of the most complex parts of the probate process is taking inventory and getting appraisals for all probate assets. Once this is complete, the executor must file the inventory with the court. These assets must be secured to ensure nothing happens to them while probate is pending.

The executor must also file federal and state taxes and pay all outstanding bills. Once the executor completes these steps, they will mail notice of the final hearing to all of the potential beneficiaries and heirs. The executor will confirm to the court that everything is complete so probate can be closed and assets distributed. Only then will the probate court issue a release of the executor’s duties.

Items to Bring for Your First Meeting

Try to bring as much documentation as possible when you meet with our Davis probate lawyers for the first time. Try to bring:

  • The official death certificate,
  • Valid will and trust documentation,
  • Recent bank statements,
  • Asset documentation,
  • Retirement plan and life insurance documents, and
  • Contact information for relatives.

The more documentation you have, the better. Understandably, you might not have everything on the first visit. However, bring as much as you can as it helps us better understand the details of the estate.

Contact a Davis Probate Lawyer Today 

No one should have to undergo the probate process alone. Having a qualified and skilled probate lawyer to navigate the complex process can make being an executor much easier. With decades of probate experience, our legal team can expertly guide you through every step of the probate process. Do you require assistance in Spanish? We also have Spanish-speaking staff that can answer all your legal questions.

Pakpour Banks LLP is here to assist. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a case evaluation so we can help you get started.