Probate FAQs2023-01-12T16:22:37+00:00

Probate FAQs

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When a person passes away, in most situations, their estate must move through probate court. This legal process is foreign to many people, especially those who have not endured the loss of a loved one. Whether you are going through the probate process or simply want to prepare, it is important to know certain basics about probate court. This will help you to make informed and empowered decisions about your future.

Q: How Long Does an Executor Have to Settle an Estate in California?

A: An executor has one year, in most scenarios, from their date of appointment to settle an estate. The date of appointment is the day that the executor begins their role as executor. This policy is in place so that executors or trustees do not withhold an estate from its beneficiaries for an indefinite amount of time.

If there is a necessity for a federal estate tax, the executor has 18 months to settle an estate. Because the taxation process takes time, executors in this situation are given an additional six months.

Q: How Much Does an Estate Have to Be Worth to Go to Probate in California?

A: As of April 1, 2022, an estate must be valued at $184,500 in order to go to probate court. If the deceased’s estate is worth less than $184,500, the executor can begin to distribute the assets right away. This amount is the total value of the estate, not just bank accounts or savings. This includes their home, stocks, bonds, etc. as well.

An estate may avoid probate if it is worth more than $184,500 if it is placed in a trust. In these scenarios, a benefactor effectively gives legal ownership over their property to their trustee. In the case of a living or revocable trust, the benefactor still has power over their assets despite the trustee’s role. When the benefactor dies, therefore, the owner of the assets does not because the trustee is the legal owner. Because of this, the law allows the assets to avoid probate court.

Q: How Long Does an Estate Stay in Probate in CA?

A: The normal amount of time for an estate to stay in probate is between one year and 18 months. However, there are many complicated estates that can take two years or more to move through the probate system. Unfortunately, this means that it can be a long time before you receive an inheritance.

If you are involved in probate in any way, it is important to hire an attorney. We can help to settle challenges and problems, which can expedite the probate process somewhat.

Q: How Much Does an Executor Get Paid in CA?

A: California has a very precise system for determining the amount of money that an executor receives. Executors may receive the following:

  • 4% of the first $100,000
  • 3% of the next $100,000
  • 2% of the following $800,000
  • 1% one percent of the next $9 million
  • .5% of the following $15 million
  • A “reasonable amount” for an estate above $25 million

If you believe that the executor in your case is receiving too much, or you have been named as an executor, an attorney can help to advocate for your best interests.

Q: What Happens in Probate?

A: The probate process is intended to settle the deceased’s tax debts, name an executor, and review the will. The judge must determine whether the will is valid. If the will is valid and it names an executor, the judge releases the will to the executor so they can distribute the assets. If the will is valid but does not name an executor, the judge will name one. If the will is invalid, all assets will move to the deceased’s next of kin.

Probate court demonstrates the importance of having a will and ensuring that it has been created properly. Without an attorney to help create the will, it is entirely possible that the judge will deem it invalid in probate court. This means that all of your assets will move to one person, and that individual does not have to redistribute the assets according to your wishes. Your benefactors are at risk if you do not use an attorney to create your will.

Q: What If the Decedent Died Without a Will?

A: If no will can be found, the deceased’s assets will move to their next of kin. That individual has the choice to redistribute the assets or keep them for themselves. They are perfectly within their right to retain the assets, as the deceased did not leave other specific legal instructions. The same thing occurs if the judge deems the will to be invalid in some way.

Q: What Happens If a Minor Inherits Property?

A: If a minor person inherits property through a will, the process depends on the value. If the inheritance is $1,000 or less, the court may decide to give the property to the child’s parent or guardian without legal supervision. However, if the property is worth a significant amount of money, such as a home, tract of land, etc., then the asset will be held by a trustee or custodian under court supervision. The benefactor will get what they inherited at a predetermined time, usually age 18.

Contact Bochnewich Law Offices

Probate is one of the most common but complicated areas of the law. Almost everyone has to go through the probate process at some point. It is essential to feel empowered and informed when you are navigating probate law and probate court procedure. The best way to do this is by hiring an attorney to represent you. We can help to protect your interests as a benefactor or executor and provide you with legal counsel when the situation becomes too complicated.

We are proud to serve the people of Southern California and their probate needs. For more information about our services, our firm, or the probate process, please contact Bochnewich Law Offices online today.

Peter Bochnewich
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