Experience. Trust. Lasting Results. Let's Get Started
Probate sign, stack of papers and gavel.

What Is Probate?

Bochnewich Dec. 28, 2020

One of the most challenging aspects of losing a loved one is the complicated legal proceedings that follow. Probate is the legal process of administering an individual’s estate after their death. Depending on what type of end-of-life plans the deceased had in place at the time of their death, probate can be a very straightforward process of ensuring the validity of these plans or a complex affair of sorting out intestate succession laws as they apply to the deceased’s estate.

Having a will, living trust, or estate plan in place can significantly reduce the time and stress required of probate proceedings. These end-of-life documents are valuable for limiting a loved one’s uncertainty after one’s death.

Do You Need an Attorney to Go Through Probate?

Legal representation is good to have in any probate case, regardless of whether the deceased had a will or other estate plan in place. A good probate lawyer will ensure the intestate succession process unfolds according to state laws and verify that all documentation brought forth in the case is legitimate and enforceable. When there are no end-of-life documents to which surviving kin may refer to during probate, hiring an attorney is even more valuable.

Your probate attorney can help you and your loved ones prepare for the probate proceedings ahead. In many probate cases where the deceased had no will, disputes may manifest among family members pertaining to the distribution of the estate’s contents. Having a probate attorney on your side can significantly reduce the time required to resolve such issues.

What Are the Responsibilities of A Probate Attorney?

Choosing the right attorney to represent you and your loved ones during probate offers several advantages. An experienced attorney can help you collect and manage proceeds from life insurance accounts held by the deceased and also assist in arranging property appraisals. Additionally, a probate attorney is also tasked with ensuring all of the deceased’s assets are thoroughly investigated during probate. These services help the family establish the accurate value of the estate.

The probate process does not only pertain to a deceased individual’s assets and property but also the debts they leave behind. Typically, a deceased individual’s debts are paid out of their estate, and everything leftover is subject to disbursement according to the instructions included in the estate plan. A good probate attorney will also coordinate with the deceased’s personal representative and the family to manage the estate’s checkbook, verify estate taxes owed, and track all expenses out of the estate.

Another important responsibility of a probate attorney is to prepare their clients for the probate proceedings ahead. In some cases, this will involve a close review of the deceased’s estate plan. Other cases will require arduous probate litigation.

What Is the Probate Process?

The probate process is a legal review of a deceased individual’s estate. When the deceased has an estate plan in place, the probate process revolves around ensuring the validity of the estate plan, verifying the actual contents of the estate, and then disbursing the estate’s contents according to the deceased’s wishes.

When the deceased had no will or estate plan, the probate process follows intestate succession laws. These vary from state to state, but generally, the deceased’s surviving spouse and children are the first to inherit property through the probate process. If no such kin exists, California’s intestate succession laws dictate the order of succession, typically extending to family members, financial dependents, and anyone who can prove a valid claim on the contents of the deceased’s estate.

What Happens if Someone Disputes the Probate Process?

It is not uncommon for the people involved in probate litigation, even close blood relatives, to disagree about the intestate succession process or the interpretation of estate planning documents. Whenever a probate dispute arises, the probate court will settle the matter according to state statutes. Depending on the type of dispute raised and the evidence in play, the probate process can escalate into a far more complex and time-consuming civil case.

Find Legal Counsel Today

California’s probate process is notoriously stressful, and probate litigation can be incredibly taxing without the right legal counsel on your side. If you are ready to meet with a reputable and experienced probate lawyer who can help you make more sense of the legal proceedings you and your family will face, contact the Bochnewich Law Offices to schedule a consultation with our team. We can evaluate your loved one’s estate plans, if any, and let you know what to expect from the probate process.