Losing a loved one is one of the most traumatic experiences in a lifetime. But that experience could even become more complicated if the decedent didn’t establish a comprehensive estate plan for proper management of their properties when they’re gone. Only a few persons understand that a will is usually subject to a probate before the estate administrator can execute its instructions.
Suppose you were appointed as the administrator of your close relative’s estate, I’m sure there are a few pertinent questions you’ll like to ask. What is the probate process like? What duties am I supposed to carry out as a willing administrator? Are there consequences for failing to probate my close relative’s will in California Law? This page intends to answer these questions and more regarding the probate administration process in California.
After reading through the information below on probating a will in California, reach out to The Law Offices of Angelo J. Lagorio for expert legal counsel and compassionate guidance on the probate administration process. Through his law office, Angelo J. Lagorio will help you better understand your role, clarify the responsibilities you must fulfill, and answer any questions you may have regarding the execution of the decedent’s estate.
Probating a will can be a very challenging, confusing, and intimidating process, even more, if the decedent didn’t utilize experienced estate planning professionals, consult an estate administration lawyer, or a life plan lawyer before their passing away. But with experienced legal advice from our law firm and representation, you can successfully navigate this milestone process and arrive at an optimal resolution for your family members. Utilize the free consultation offer and contact Angelo Lagorio’s law firm for compassionate and professional probate litigation services.
The California Probate Process at a Glance
The probate litigation process in California can be broken down into five basic steps; however, each step may be lengthy and complex on its own.
Validating the Will
In California, certain formalities must be followed while validating a will. If those formalities are not followed, it’s still possible to have the will probated. That said, suppose the decedent’s will is found to be invalid for reasons such as coercion, incapacity, or duress. In that case, the estate will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession after the administration of the estate.
The Naming of the Executor
The executor of the estate, who will oversee the distribution of the estate on behalf of the family, will be named according to the terms of the decedent’s will. Based on California probate law, the named administrator of the deceased’s will should file at the superior court in the county where they lived within 30 days of their demise.
The probate process starts with the administrator filing the will in the probate court in the county where the decedent lived. Usually, other documents might also require filling and formal notices served to beneficiaries and creditors. At the end of the filing stage, the court grants the individual authority over the estate if approved.
Where there’s no will or the named administrator is unavailable, a family member would request the court to be appointed as the estate administrator. Both the administrator and the administrator do the same job.
Taking Inventory of the Estate
After getting authority from the court, the individual responsible for probate administration will take an inventory of all the assets held by the deceased’s estate, and establish the fair market value for each, usually with the help of a probate referee who is assigned to the case by the court.
The process of organizing the units of the estate and opening an estate bank account could be overwhelming. It’s therefore advisable to get help from an attorney who critically understands the process and can provide adequate guidance.
Additionally, during probate, it’s the responsibility of the executor to protect all properties of the decedent. For instance, they must protect the heirlooms from damage or theft.
Resolving Claims against the Estate
If any debts are owed by the decedent or claims against the estate, the administrator resolves them. While California laws permit creditors to make their claims, such as through a small process serving, within four months, most estates don’t often get any formal claims on debt repayments. Usually, the administrator pays outstanding bills such as the medical costs of the deceased’s last illness. Where there are no sufficient funds to offset the bills, state laws outline the process of paying off claims from an estate’s properties.
Distribution of Assets
At the end of probate, the administrator requests that the court closes the estate. That is when the administrator could distribute all the estate’s assets among the beneficiaries.
Each of these steps can take a significant amount of time, and in very high net worth cases, or in cases where a will is contested, probate administration can last years.
Fremont Probate Lawyers – Frequently Asked Questions
The following are answers to some of the most common questions potential clients ask concerning probate cases. Should you have any further queries, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Law Offices of Angelo J. Lagorio. We’ll be more than glad to answer your queries on probate administration in Fremont, CA satisfactorily.
Can You Do Probate Without a Lawyer in California?
Yes, it’s possible to execute probate without the services of a lawyer in California. However, the entire process of probate requires that the executor completes all implicated steps, according to California probate law.
A probate attorney with the requisite legal experience can assist you in determining if a probate is necessary. Your attorney would also help you ascertain which assets may allow an exclusion from the probate process.
Moreover, the size of the estate and other forms of property owned by the deceased can decide whether a probate is necessary. Broadly speaking, with a total asset worth less than $150,000, you may not have to appear in court. Additionally, if the departed’s property was jointly owned (for instance, with a spouse), then a probate may not be necessary.
How Much Do Lawyers Charge to Settle an Estate in California?
The cost of probate in California usually depends on the worth of the estate and the extent to which the departed planned the estate. However, bear in mind that the overall cost of probate differs from one estate to another and from one attorney to the other. Finally, probate administration costs vary between different probate professionals involved in filing probate.
The process of estimating California probate fees is as complex as the probate processes could be. Add to it extra executor commissions, attorney fees, and payment schedules, and you’re up against tons of details.
Generally speaking, most lawyers charge a flat or hourly rate for probate litigation. Additionally, California probate statutory fees permit a lawyer to receive a percentage of the gross value of the probated assets as their fee. State laws designate the percentage as follows:
- 4% of the initial $100,000 of the gross value of the probate estate
- 3% of the next $100,000
- 2% of the next $800,000
- 1% of the next $9 million
- 5% of the next $15 million
What Happens If You Don’t File a Probate in California?
Failure to file the will of your deceased loved ones could lead to severe consequences for you—the administrator—the beneficiaries, and the estate. First, without filing probate, the property titled after the decedent will remain in the decedent’s name for an indefinite period. That means you can’t offset debts, distribute the property to the named beneficiaries, or update the registration of the properties.
Similarly, you’re responsible for informing all potential creditors of claims against the estate of the deceased. By opening a probate file, credit institutions have up to four months after you assume the position of the administrator to make their claims. After making their claims, you’re responsible for either paying off the debt or contesting it within 30 days.
Should you reject the claim, credit institutions could file a civil claim within another 90 days or lose the right to do so. If you avoid probate, you allow credit institutions to keep pursuing payments of debts for up to 12 months.
Moreover, you may be removed from your role as the administrator of the decedent’s assets over violating your duties. Violation of duty could occur through hiding, mishandling, or stealing properties, making poor investment decisions, or not distributing them in a timely way.
Finally, suppose you failed to file the will and initiate probate to illegally benefit from the deceased’s wealth. In that case, you may eventually require a criminal defense proceeding for the suffering of the damages due to your violation. Suppose the decedent stipulated that all or part of their assets should be distributed to charity. The laws of intestate succession (dying without leaving a will behind) would qualify you to inherit the estate. Therefore, your refusal to file the will comes off due to your desire to reap financial rewards against the owner’s wishes, which is subject to criminal prosecution.
Contact Experienced Fremont Probate Lawyers Today
Avoiding probate whenever possible is key to reducing the costs of executing an estate. Through the process of setting up an estate plan, a person can set up a will and a variety of trusts aimed at eliminating probate or making the execution of the estate as straightforward as possible. At the Law Offices of Angelo J. Lagorio, attorney Angelo stays current with the laws surrounding probate matters in California.
Have you been named an administrator and are confused about how to begin the probate process, contact the Law Offices of Angelo J. Lagorio in Fremont, CA for a free consultation to discuss your circumstances by calling 935-750-8757.