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Does Your Loved One’s Estate Have To Go Through Probate?

Probate is the process by which a decedent’s assets are distributed among their heirs or beneficiaries. While the California probate is generally lengthy and sometimes costly, not everyone’s estate will be subject to the process. Probate is necessary in cases where the total value of the decedent’s assets exceeds a certain amount. If the deceased individual established a valid trust, had jointly owned property, or titles with transfer on death designations or other assets with named beneficiaries, such as life insurance policies, 401(k) accounts, their estate may avoid probate entirely. The estates of individuals who have passed away without a will are subject to the laws of intestate succession. This means that the laws of the state of California determine how and when creditors are paid through the estate, and how and when beneficiaries are given legal ownership to assets of the estate.

Steps Involved In The California Probate Process When There is a Will

The probate process in California can be broken down into five basic steps; however, each step may be lengthy and complex on its own.

  1. Validating the will. In California, there are certain formalities that must be followed in the witnessing of a will. If those formalities are not followed, it is possible to still have the will probated. If the decedent’s will is found to be invalid for reasons such as coercion, incapacity or duress, the estate will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession after administration of the estate.
  2. Naming of the executor. An executor of the estate, who will oversee the distribution of assets, will be named according to the terms of your will.
  3. Taking inventory of the estate. The executor will take an inventory of all the assets held by the deceased individual’s estate, and establish the fair market value for each, usually with the help of a probate referee who is assigned to the case by the court.
  4. Resolving claims against the estate. If there are any debts owed by the decedent or claims against the estate, they will be resolved.
  5. Distribution of assets. At the end of the probate process, the decedent’s remaining assets are then distributed amongst the beneficiaries.

Each of these steps can take a significant amount of time, and in very high net worth cases, or in cases where a will is contested, the probate process can last years.

Contact An Experienced Bay Area Probate Lawyer Today

Avoiding probate whenever possible is key to reducing the costs of executing an estate. Through the process of estate planning, an individual can set up a trust aimed at eliminating the probate process. At Rodriguez Lagorio, LLP, our attorneys stay current with the laws surrounding probate cases in California. Contact us today in Fremont for a consultation to discuss your circumstances by calling 925-750-8757.