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5 Things To Know About The Probate Process In California

Feb 7, 2023 | Probate

Probate is something most people don’t even think about until it’s required of them or their family following the death of a loved one. The process of probate can be complex, lengthy, and expensive! It is not what you need when you’re mourning someone close to you, but unfortunately, it may not be something you are able to avoid. If you’ve found yourself facing probate, it is important to work with a seasoned local probate attorney who can help you navigate the extensive process. Below you can learn what probate is and 5 important things to know about the probate process in California specifically. 

What Exactly Is Probate?

Probate is often a necessary court process that occurs after someone passes away before their assets can be officially distributed to any of their beneficiaries. It involves the possessions and legal documents (if there were any) of the person who passed away, their beneficiaries, and a personal representative (usually a close family member) who administers the estate. The process includes assessing a will, establishing who the beneficiaries are, assessing property value, taking care of remaining financial responsibilities, and transferring property and assets to the appropriate beneficiaries, among other things. 

5 Things To Know About Probate In California

  1. Even if a decedent has a will, probate might still be necessary. Not all California cases have to go through the probate process, but most do. A common misconception is that if there is a will, probate won’t have to happen, so it often gets written off. However, even if a decedent has created a will, probate might still be required in order for the legal distribution of property and assets to occur. 
  1. California probate court only has legal authority over certain assets and property. While they have authority over all things that were solely owned by the deceased individual, anything that a decedent owns jointly with another individual isn’t subject to probate. In the event of death, the surviving spouse or other co-owner of property and assets immediately inherits what remains. Any assets that are put into a trust are also exempt from the probate process as the trust itself owns the assets, property, and more. That is why a trust is highly recommended to protect loved ones from the probate process (and is one reason why estate planning is so important!). Any other accounts that have a named beneficiary, which typically includes retirement accounts, do not have to go through probate either. 
  1. A named executor or whoever has the will at the time of a person’s death has to file the will within 30 days from the date of the death. You can contact your superior courthouse to find out where your probate court clerk’s office is located. If the person who filed is not the executor, they must provide a copy to the executor. If the person who initially obtained the will does not file and provide the executor a copy of the will, they can be sued for damages, and more.  
  1. A simplified procedure might be able to take the place of a normal probate process if an estate’s value is less than $166,250. In that case probate court might not be necessary to transfer a decedent’s property.
  1. Will executors in California can receive compensation. Not every state compensates will executors, but California does, and at a reasonable rate too. They receive 4% of the first $100,000, 3% on the next $100,000, 2% on the next $800,000 and 1% on the next $9,000,000, and so on. While some may not find it necessary that they are compensated, handling an estate is a lot of work and can require a good amount of your time, so being compensated is not a bad thing! 

Why Do I Need A Probate Lawyer?

There are several reasons why obtaining a probate lawyer is necessary. The first being that the process itself is complicated, time-consuming, and highly expensive, not to mention probate can naturally cause tension amongst you and your family members over who will get what. Finding a legal representative who has practice navigating probate laws is your best bet at a less stressful probate experience. An attorney can help you find ways to simplify the process, which will ultimately save you both time and money. 

At Equal Justice Law Group, we work diligently to ensure that the right people receive what their loved ones intended for them, without the mess. It can be completely overwhelming to try and understand the legal nuances and requirements associated with the probate process, and mistakes such as missed deadlines or missing paperwork can be made very easily that will drag out the process, and possibly lead to court fines or lawsuits. That is why it is crucial to work with a skilled probate attorney that cares about you and your family’s future! 

Why Should I Choose Equal Justice Law Group?

At Equal Justice Law Group, you can rely on our probate attorneys to guide you through the probate process, explain and help you correctly complete the necessary paperwork, and help you fulfill your role as an executor. We assist you every step of the way, from filing the will with the probate court to the distribution of assets and property to heirs and beneficiaries. Our goal is to make a difficult time much easier for you and your loved ones and prevent the process from being more time-consuming or expensive than it needs to be. To us, every client is a partner; we communicate with you and empower you to take charge of your rights and your loved one’s wishes. For over 21 years, we have been serving over 7,000 clients clients in Sacramento and throughout the state; Call Equal Justice Law Group today for a free, no-obligation, initial consultation with a probate attorney who can answer your questions, explain your next steps, and provide you with peace of mind.

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