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Understanding the basics of probate, and why you need an attorney

On Behalf of | May 27, 2016 | Estate Administration |

Two things in life are certain: death and taxes, which is probably why probate is a word that makes most people cringe. It forces you to consider your own mortality or comes into play after the loss of a loved one. You might find the term unfamiliar or confusing, not understanding what it actually means or what the process truly entails – and no one faults you for this.

In California, there are probate laws in effect that pertain to assets and estates valued more than $150,000. Monies and properties (not homes, boats, or motor homes) valued under $150,000 can often be attained by an heir or beneficiary via an affidavit and avoidance of court. However, these processes are neither easy to follow nor the only ones.

There are many forms and stipulations to those forms that need to be adhered to. Thus, finding a lawyer that is experienced and fully educated on California probate law and its practices is highly recommended by legal, financial and other professionals.

What are some of the basics of probate?

  • What are probate assets? A probate asset is an asset that is held in the name of the deceased only. It is not counted as a probate asset if there are other means of determination for the beneficiary (ies), i.e.. life insurance. If not, it will be added to the estate and counted as a probate asset. Formal probates can often be avoided if there is a surviving spouse in place. In that case, the spouse can file a spousal property petition.
  • What is an executor or administrator? An executor is the person that is fully in charge of managing the probate. Some of these details include bill payments, filing taxes and distribution of the estate once the court order has been attained. Usually, the executor is named in the will. In the case where there is no will, or if the executor(s) named are unwilling to perform the duty or deceased, a court can appoint one, usually the closest relatives to the decedent take priority in becoming the executor or administrator for the estate.
  • How does a probate case begin? To begin a probate case, a petition must be filed in the Superior Court of the county of the deceased. Most often, the petition is prepared and filed by the attorney of the perspective executor, administrator, or personal representative. The petition in question will include information on the deceased, the executor or administrator, living heirs and beneficiaries. In addition, the size of the estate and other information – like whether bond will be required – are included in the petition as well.

Finding the right California probate lawyer is essential in probate cases. Laws often vary from county to county, so having a county-specific lawyer is key. With a probate attorney in your corner, you can have assurance that the properties or monies in question are obtained more quickly (if you are the rightful heir or beneficiary) than attempting to do so alone. Attorneys will also handle the more complicated matters at hand, like finalizing debts, disposal of property and preparation and filing all of the necessary forms and affidavits that are needed to finalize your probate case.

The Probate House L.C. is a well-known and well-respected probate law firm in Torrance, California. Our attorneys not only provide detailed assistance to individuals, but they do so with a level of compassion, care and personal attention that is not always a part of skilled legal representation.