Unless you have been directly involved in the probate of an estate before, the probate process can be somewhat intimidating. To help remove some of the mystery, the Los Angeles, California probate attorneys at Schomer Law Group have prepared answers to some frequently asked questions relating to the California probate process.
- What is probate? Probate is the legal process that is typically required after someone passes away. Probate serves several purposes, the most important of which are to ensure that the decedent’s assets are identified and distributed to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs as well as to allow creditors the opportunity to file claims against the estate.
- Is probate always required? Some type of probate is usually required; however, for small estates, formal probate may not be necessary. Estates valued at less than $150,000 may not require formal probate; however, because of the complex nature of California’s probate laws and rules you should consult with an experienced probate attorney to determine what type of probate, if any, is required.
- Who oversees the probate of an estate? If the decedent left behind a valid Last Will and Testament the individual named as Executor in the Will oversees the probate of the estate. If the decedent died intestate (without a Will), a spouse, friend, or family member usually volunteers to be the Administrator of the estate. If no one volunteers, the court will appoint an Administrator.
- Do all assets go through probate? Some assets bypass the probate process altogether, meaning they can be distributed to the intended beneficiaries right away. Common examples of non-probate assets include:
- Asset held in a trust
- Proceeds of a life insurance policy
- Assets held in a “payable on death (POD)” account
- Certain types of jointly held property
- How long does probate take in California? Several factors will determine how long the probate process takes; however, creditors of the estate have up to four months from the time the Personal Representative (Executor or Administrator) was given the authority to proceed with probate to file a claim. Consequently, probate typically takes a minimum of six months to complete. For larger estates with valuable and/or complex assets, or for estates that are challenged, the probate process can easily take more than a year to conclude.
- Do I need a lawyer for probate? The law does not require you to retain an attorney; however, given the complexity of the process, the ease with which an error can be committed, and the importance of what it is at stake, most Executors/Administrators choose to retain an experienced probate attorney to assist them during the probate process.
- What happens if someone dies without a Will? If the decedent failed to execute a valid Last Will and Testament prior to his/her death the estate is referred to as an “intestate” estate. In that case, the California laws of intestate succession govern the disposition of probate assets. Typically, it means that only a spouse and/or close relatives will inherit from the estate.
- What are the steps in the probate process? Although every estate is unique, there are some common steps in the probate of most estates, including:
- Identifying, locating, and valuing estate assets
- Opening probate
- Authenticating the Will
- Identifying legal heirs in an intestate estate
- Notifying creditors
- Reviewing creditor claims
- Litigating and challenges
- Paying estate taxes
- Transferring and distributing assets to beneficiaries and/or heirs
Contact the California Probate Attorneys at Schomer Law Group Today
Whether you are an Executor or Administrator, a beneficiary or heir, or an estate creditor, navigating the probate process alone can be a daunting prospect. At Schomer Law Group, we are committed to helping you through the probate process. Contact the California office today by calling (310) 337-7696 or (562) 346-3209 or by filling out our online contact form.