Losing a loved one is an incredibly painful experience, and being burdened with complex bureaucratic proceedings can make this time even more difficult. If you have written a will, you may think that you are adequately prepared to ensure your wishes will be carried out according to your specific instructions after you pass away. However, for your loved ones to receive their inheritance, they must undergo probate, the court-supervised process of administering an estate after death. The probate court must determine that your will is legally valid and enforceable, and then an administrator will be responsible for handling the financial affairs of your estate.
Unfortunately, the probate process can be incredibly complicated, time-consuming, and expensive, so most people choose to create estate plans that clearly outline their preferences regarding how their estate will be managed. Consult the information below to learn more about probate, then contact Bochnewich Law Offices to develop a comprehensive, legally binding estate plan that protects your family members from the additional hassle of probate.
What Is Probate?
Probate refers to the judicial process in which a probate court authenticates your will and appoints an administrator to manage your home and estate according to the terms of your will. If you do not designate an administrator, the court will appoint one to serve on behalf of your estate. During this process, the administration will gather and appraise the assets and property of your estate, pay off all remaining taxes, debts, and other financial obligations, and then distribute the remaining estate to the named beneficiaries.
If you die without a will, also known as dying intestate, the probate process will follow California’s laws of intestate succession. Under these laws, your surviving spouse will inherit your entire estate if you do not have any children. If you do have children, your spouse will inherit all community property in your estate and 50% of separate property; then, your children will inherit the remaining property in equal proportions. If you do not have a spouse or children, your estate will pass to your parents or to your siblings if your parents are not living. If you do not have a surviving spouse, descendants, or parents, your estate would pass to other financial dependents, increasingly distant relatives, or anyone else who has a valid claim to your estate.
How Does the Probate Process Work in Indio, California?
If you have a will in place, the probate process will be used to prove the legal validity of your will and appoint the administrator you named to manage your estate. This involves verifying and valuing the contents of your estate, notifying all beneficiaries and creditors of their claim to the contents of the estate, paying any remaining debts, and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries according to the terms you set forth in your will. Any assets designated for a beneficiary who has passed away, non-titled property, property titled as tenancy in common with another investment partner, and property titled solely in your name must all undergo probate before they may be distributed.
While an estate plan does not allow all assets to avoid probate, it does streamline the process. With an estate plan, you can avoid probate for assets with named beneficiaries, property titled jointly with survivorship rights, assets titled as payable on death or transfer on death, and items placed in a trust. This can save you a significant amount of time and give your beneficiaries immediate access to their inheritances. A full probate process takes an average of 18 months, and the court fees and probate fees can represent around 8% of the total value of the estate.
The larger your estate and the more complicated your financial situation, the more difficult the probate process becomes, the longer it will take, and the more money your loved ones will have to spend to resolve the process. It is also more likely that people will contest the interpretation of the decedent’s estate plan when there is a substantial amount of money involved. Keep in mind that after this process has begun, details of the estate, beneficiaries, and terms of distribution become public knowledge. Most people choose to create an estate plan to save time and money, keep their financial affairs private, and help their family members avoid all the bureaucratic red tape that goes along with the probate process.
What Is a Probate Lawyer and What Does a Probate Attorney Do for You?
If you do not have a will or estate plan, an Indio probate lawyer can ensure that the intestate succession process follows state laws and confirm that all documentation regarding your estate is legitimate and legally enforceable. However, regardless of the end-of-life planning you put in place, legal representation is always recommended for your loved ones when it is time to navigate probate. A probate attorney can help by:
Preparing and filing all documents required by probate court
Informing your administrator of their role and responsibilities
Helping them prepare for the upcoming probate proceedings
Thoroughly investigating all assets and property in the estate
Securing these assets, such as placing valuables in a safe location or maintaining and insuring real estate
Having the assets appraised to determine the estate’s value
Managing the estate’s checking account
Collecting proceeds from insurance accounts
Notifying beneficiaries and creditors of their interest in the estate
Paying mortgages, debts, income taxes, and other outstanding financial obligations
Determining whether estate taxes are owed
Managing, preserving, and distributing property and assets to named beneficiaries
Some probate attorneys bill hourly for their services, while others charge a flat fee. California adheres to a statutory fee schedule in which Indio litigation attorneys may charge for their services based on a certain percentage of the probate estate’s gross value. An Indio probate lawyer can collect:
4% of the first $100,000
3% of the next $100,000
2% of the next $800,000
1% of the next $1 million
5% of the next $15 million
“A reasonable percentage” of estates valued over $25 million
Save Time, Money, and Hassle with an Estate Planning Lawyer
California’s probate process can be incredibly stressful, and probate litigation can take years without experienced legal counsel. Although it is not necessary to hire an attorney for probate, it is recommended in nearly every case. The only way you can truly guarantee that your assets and property will be properly managed after your death is to create a comprehensive estate plan with help from an Indio probate lawyer. Bochnewich Law Offices can help you develop an estate plan that protects your assets and streamlines the probate process for your loved ones. A lawyer for estate planning can also designate power of attorney to ensure your decisions about finances and health care are respected if you become incapacitated. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you prepare for the future.
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