Cathedral City Practice Areas
When a loved one passes in Cathedral City, CA, the pain can be consuming. Processing grief can take time and mental strength that may seem to block out everything that must be done upon their passing. Unfortunately, when one passes, there are many loose ends that need attention. Before there is even a funeral, the legal process starts. Whether your loved one left behind a will expressing their final wishes or not, the division of their assets could become the center of a long legal process.
When it comes time to settle the estate of a loved one, it should be a time of remembrance and honor. While there are ways to settle probate without the assistance of an attorney, the complicated process can lead to quarreling or disagreements with other family members. With the help of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney from the Bochnewich Law Offices, you can focus on the memory of your loved one.
What Is Probate?
The process of passing on the assets and belongings of a person who has passed away to their descendants, heirs, and beneficiaries is known as probate. Such assets include bank accounts, homes, retirement accounts, and various other probate estate properties. Courts oversee the probate procedures, which involve many steps that include the involvement of creditors before any distribution can take place.
A person will be named executor of a will if there is one. If there is not an existing will, then an administrator will be assigned. The duty of this person is to pay any debts the deceased may have collected and distribute any remaining assets to any beneficiary.
How Probate Works
When a person passes, their assets need to be split between remaining descendants. The process begins by analyzing any will that is left behind, determining if a will is legalized or if a will is nonexistent, and what circumstances need to be considered. The process then takes the appropriate path:
- Probate with a will. A person who leaves a will is known as a testator. When this person dies, the person appointed as the executor will begin the probate process. The executor is often a member of the deceased family, but it could be assigned otherwise. Because a court oversees the probate process, the executor will be confirmed by the court, who will then be responsible for carrying out the wishes of the will.
- Probate without a will. If there is no will at the time of a person’s death, this is referred to as intestate. This term is also applied to any will that the court deems invalid. When a person dies without a will, the dissemination of assets is left to the laws of the state. Because there is no executor named, the court will assign an administrator who will then begin a similar process to when a will is left behind. They will determine outstanding debts and pay them. They will need to locate any heirs while the court assesses the deceased’s assets, which will then be divided. If there are no heirs, the assets become the property of the state.
The Job of a Probate Lawyer
The responsibility of an estate planning attorney is to help the person charged with overseeing the estate of a person who is deceased. As such, the attorney needs to have knowledge of the laws that apply to each unique case. One of the main tasks is to gather all relevant documentation and evidence to make a plan for distribution. This is particularly important in cases where the deceased did not leave a will or other information. Other responsibilities of a probate attorney include the following:
- Assisting with paying debts or taxes
- Filing tax returns at both state and federal levels
- Assisting with funeral cost oversight
- Locating next of kin
- Assisting with the distribution of benefits owed from retirement
- Challenging any probate disputes
- Providing legal counsel for other issues of probate, including wrongful death
Attending Probate Court
After a person passes, or if they are incapacitated in such a way that they are unable to make sound decisions, a probate court may be required to intervene. In court, a judge will look through the evidence presented and make determinations about the division of assets and other decisions that seek to settle affairs. The probate court seeks to accomplish the following:
- Validate the will of a person who is deceased or otherwise incapacitated
- Ensure a person has been assigned to inventory and oversee the assets of the deceased or other incapacitated person and arrange the payment of any debts
- Anticipate any possible disputes as well as who will get what assets
- Use the direction of the will to distribute any remaining assets
Benefits of a Probate Estate Planning Attorney
When you hire a probate attorney, you bring a partner into the process who is there to help keep you legally on track for the dissemination of assets and payment of debts. Their assistance includes:
- They aid in probate decision-making by empowering you to uphold the wishes of the will if one is left.
- They provide a team that provides a perspective through an independent viewpoint.
- They seek to keep the process on track to help bring full resolution as quickly as possible.
- They can save money by helping to ensure everything is done right the first time.
Cathedral City Probate Attorney
While some may tell you that probate can be settled without an attorney, the benefits of having one on your side outweigh the potential benefits of settling on your own. The California probate process often comes with many unforeseen complications and potential disputes that can be avoided with the help of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney. From appeasing the demands of beneficiaries to carrying out the wishes of the deceased to working through the assets when there is a lack of direction, you may find there are more questions than answers. At the Bochnewich Law Offices, we have the answers you are looking for to help with your probate case. Contact our offices today for any questions you have about probate and estate planning.