Since you are on this website, you must be interested in learning some things about estate planning. In a real sense, it all starts with the probate court. When you understand the function of this body, you start to get a better understanding of the estate administration process.
Last Wills and Court Supervision
The last will is the estate planning document that is most commonly utilized to facilitate postmortem asset transfers. If you decide to use a will to state your final wishes, you would name an executor in the document. This is the individual that would handle the administrative duties after you are gone.
Your executor would not be able to go forward independently after your passing. Under the laws of the state of California, the probate court would enter the picture to determine the validity of the will and provide supervision while the estate is being administered by the executor.
It should be noted that it is possible for interested parties to come forward to challenge the validity of a will during probate. As a result, the court may be called upon to make a decision in this regard, but estate challenges are relatively rare.
During probate, final debts must be paid, so the executor is required to notify creditors. Assets that comprise the estate will be identified and inventoried, and appraisals and liquidation of property may be necessary to prepare the assets for distribution to the heirs.
After all of the tasks have been completed to the court’s satisfaction, the estate will be closed. At that point, the executor will be authorized to distribute assets to the inheritors in accordance with the wishes of the decedent.
In some cases, a person with some resources will pass away without any estate planning documents at all. This is called the condition of intestacy. Under these circumstances, the probate court would provide the necessary supervision.
A personal representative would be named by the court to assume a role that is similar to that of an executor. The same situation would exist with regard to settling of final debts and asset identification and preparation.
Ultimately, the court would approve of asset distributions to the appropriate parties using the intestate succession laws of the state of California. Generally speaking, the closest living blood relative or relatives would inherit the assets. If you would like to get into the specifics, check out the relevant section of the California Probate Code.
A very significant percentage of elders become unable to make sound decisions on their own at some point in time. The leading culprit is Alzheimer’s, a disease that strikes about four out of every 10 people that are 85 years of age and older. Though this is the top threat, there are other causes of incapacity.
The probate court could be petitioned to appoint a guardian to act on behalf of an incapacitated adult. Though guardianship is a necessary remedy, it is best to prepare for incapacity in advance while you are of sound mind so that you can name your own representatives.
If you have a living trust, you could name a disability trustee to act as the administrator. With a durable power of attorney for property, you can name someone to make financial decisions on your behalf regarding property that is not in the trust. A durable power of attorney for health care can be added as well.
Download Our Free Estate Planning Worksheet!
We have provided a bit of information about the purpose of the probate process in this brief blog post. There are other resources available on our website, and you are invited to look around and access any written materials that you find.
One of these resources that you should definitely take advantage of sooner rather than later is our estate planning worksheet. People that go through it consistently provide us with positive feedback about its usefulness, and it is being offered free of charge right now. To get your copy, visit our worksheet page and follow the simple instructions.