When a loved one dies, dealing with California courts is the last thing anyone wants to do. Court processes can be time-consuming and confusing. Prolonged proceedings cause uncertainty and interfere with the grieving process. Unfortunately, many estates must go through probate court before being distributed to beneficiaries.
Probate courts play a necessary role in ensuring that a deceased person’s estate is administered according to their wishes and the law. A clear estate plan that accounts for California law can make the probate process more manageable. An easier probate process will maximize the benefits you provide to your beneficiaries and save them time and heartache.
At Pakpour Banks LLP, we aim to make the probate process easier for everyone involved. Our attorneys deeply understand Woodland probate law and have experience handling a broad range of probate issues. We also have the resources to help if your primary language is Spanish. If you need a Woodland probate lawyer, contact Pakpour Banks LLP today.
What Is Probate?
In California, probate is a legal process in which a probate court oversees the transfer of assets from a decedent’s estate to creditors and beneficiaries. The rules that govern the probate process are contained in California’s Probate Code.
During probate, the court validates the decedent’s will. The court then appoints a personal representative to gather the decedent’s assets, pay off or contest the decedent’s debts, and distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. The personal representative usually engages in these transactions under the supervision of the court.
What Assets Must Go Through Probate in California?
All probate assets must go through the probate system in California. Probate assets include any real estate or other personal property that the decedent individually owned. Common probate assets include the following:
- Bank accounts,
- Other ownership stakes in businesses,
- Furniture and other household items,
- Personal vehicles,
- Recreational vehicles,
- Art, and
- Real estate.
Property that the decedent owned jointly with someone else is not subject to probate proceedings in California. An experienced Woodland probate attorney can help determine if a specific property will be subject to probate. Contact us today!
How Long Does Probate Take?
Every estate is different. For this reason, it is challenging to predict how long probate will take without an in-depth understanding of the estate. Factors that can affect the length of the probate process include:
- The size of the estate,
- Whether the estate is contested in court,
- The number of creditors the estate is subject to,
- The types of assets the estate owns,
- How the decedent arranges the estate, and
- The tax implications of distributing the estate.
The probate process can generally last anywhere from a few months to multiple years. At a minimum, creditors have four months to file claims against the estate. Legal complications can significantly extend the time it takes for an estate to go through probate.
How Much Does Probate Cost?
Similarly, it is difficult to predict how much probate will cost without understanding the particular facts and circumstances of a given estate. Many of the same factors that affect the length of probate proceedings also affect the cost. Longer probate proceedings are likely to cost more. Some costs include court fees, payments for lawyers and other professionals, personal representative compensation, and publication fees. Each of these costs is paid out of the estate’s assets before the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries.
Probate Process Steps in California
Seven general steps take place during the probate process in California. Probating a specific estate can include more or fewer steps depending on how the estate is organized before the decedent’s death.
- The first step is to file a petition with the California Superior Court in the county where the decedent last resided. Once a petition is filed, the court will schedule a hearing.
- Next, a notice alerting the public to the hearing will be published in a local newspaper. The notice must also be sent to anyone named in the will, potential beneficiaries, and known creditors.
- The court will likely validate the will during the first hearing. The steps the court must take to establish a will’s validity depend on the will the decedent left. A will that is not clearly valid might be vulnerable to being contested in court. The court will also certify or appoint a personal representative.
- The personal representative will then collect the assets of the estate that are subject to the probate proceeding. In most cases, the personal representative will make an inventory of estate assets and might hire an appraiser to value some assets.
- After collecting the assets, the personal representative must respond to any claims made against the estate by creditors. They should pay any valid claims out of the estate and contest any invalid claims.
- The personal representative must also pay any taxes that the estate owes.
- Finally, the personal representative will close out the estate and distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the decedent’s estate plan. Closing out the estate is a complicated process that involves several steps.
A Woodland probate attorney can guide you through these steps and determine if any additional steps are necessary to distribute an estate. Contact us today!
How to Avoid Probate in California
A Woodland probate lawyer can help you set up your estate to circumvent many of the most demanding aspects of probate. Doing so will save your loved ones money, time, and heartache.
To start, several types of assets are not subject to probate proceedings. These assets include:
- Life insurance policies with a named beneficiary,
- Death benefits,
- Retirement accounts,
- Pay on death accounts,
- Assets owned as a joint tenancy with a right of survivorship,
- Other jointly owned assets,
- Life estates, and
- Assets in a trust.
Further, the entire estate can avoid the probate process if it is organized correctly. For example, creating a revocable living trust to take ownership of your assets can allow your assets to be distributed to beneficiaries without going through probate.
Contact Pakpour Banks LLP for Your Probate Needs
At Pakpour Bank LLP, we take a client-focused approach to resolving probate matters. Founding attorney Keith Banks is a former probate clerk who brings unparalleled experience to our team. Going through probate can be stressful, which is why our Woodland probate attorneys aim to simplify the probate process for our clients. Contact Pakpour Bank LLP today so that we can help you with all of your probate needs.