The loss of a spouse, family member, or other close relative or loved one is a difficult experience for all individuals. Often, grief and sadness over their passing can overwhelm and can cause difficulties in handling the loved one’s last wishes as expressed in their will or in the absences of a guiding document. Administering the distribution of the loved one’s property alone and without careful legal guidance can add to the anxiety experienced. Furthermore, a failure to take certain actions in a timely manner or missteps during the probate process can increase the likelihood of infighting among family members and close friends for the property that they believe they are entitled or promised to receive.
The experienced probate and estate planning lawyers of NewPoint Law Group address probate concerns in California. We administer and facilitate the process to ensure compliance with all laws and required procedures. An approach of this type reduces the likelihood of a probate dispute due to improper handling at the probate level. To schedule a confidential consultation with experienced probate lawyers call 1-800-358-0305.
What Estate Planning Issues Are Handled in California Probate Court?
A California probate court is a court of limited jurisdiction. The court is responsible for overseeing the administration of certain estates following the passing of an individual. In a probate matter, either an administrator (when the decedent had a will) or an executor (when the decedent did not have a will) is appointed to act as an agent for the estate. Their responsibilities include settling the obligations of the estate and then distributing assets per the will or state intestacy laws. Thus, the issues that can arise in a probate court include:
- Determining whether a will was validly executed and drafted.
- Handling the debts held by the estate
- Transferring remaining property to the beneficiaries set forth in the will or under state law.
The entire process is conducted under the supervision of the court. The process often takes a minimum of nine months to complete but, especially in the case of a dispute, can often extend for much longer durations of time.
When Is It Appropriate to Appear in Probate Court?
Not all estates are handled through probate. In fact, there are a number of exceptions where the estate can be administered through simplified procedures under California law. These situations include:
- Joint tenancy, community property, right to survivorship – Property owned jointly with another person or community property can pass directly to the survivor. Likewise, a bank account that is payable on death (POD) can pass directly to the survivor. In some cases the beneficiary may still be force to prove his or her claim to the property.
- Trusts and life insurance policies – Certain property will pass to the survivors through its contractual obligations to named beneficiaries.
- Estates worth less than $150,000 – Certain estates worth less than $150,000 and not involving real property such as a home or real estate can pass through simplified procedures that do not include court proceedings. However, if the estate also includes real property, a petition with the courts must be filed via Form DE-310 along with an inventory and appraisal via Form DE-160.
- Married or domestic partner – These individuals may be able to use a simplified procedure via Form DE-221 to receive a determination of the property they are entitled to receive. In the case that the spouse or domestic partner is entitled to all property, probate can usually be avoided.
However, if the estate is worth more than $150,000 or a dispute is involved, it must proceed through a probate case in the courts.
How Does One Begin the Process of a Probate Case?
The process to begin a probate case in the absence of a will begins with the filing of Form DE-111. If a will is available the custodian of the will must bring the original to the probate court clerk’s office within 30 days of the decedent’s passing. Following the filing of the probate matter steps include:
- A court hearing date is set.
- The petitioner must provide notice to all interested parties and potential beneficiaries. The petition must hire a non-interested third-party to handle the actual sending of the notice.
- Notice by publication in a newspaper must be arranged.
- Inventory and appraisal forms must be filed.
- Formal notice must be provided to all creditors.
The above merely provides a brief outline of some of the steps involved in administering an estate through probate. Probate is a complex process and many other steps and requirements must be satisfied.
Rely on an Experienced Roseville Probate Attorney
The experienced probate lawyers of the NewPoint Law Group can handle an array of issues and concerns following the passing of a loved one. We work to increase the likelihood that the estate moves through the probate process smoothly. To schedule a confidential consultation call 1-800-358-0305 or contact us online today.