Do You Understand Probate? We Can Walk You Through the Process

Understanding the Probate Process

Get the Answers from an Orange County Probate Lawyer

The subject of probate is one of the most challenging and potentially confusing areas of estate planning. If a loved one has passed away leaving only a will and no other type of estate planning instruments such as a trust, you and your fellow heirs will not be able to receive your portions of the estate until the will has been subjected to the process of probate. To protect your personal interests and ensure that the probate is carried out efficiently and economically, you should proceed with the help of a professional laywer.

At P. Arnsen Blakely, our Orange County probate litigation attorney can advise you of your rights and advocate on your behalf during every stage of the process.
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The Purpose of Probate and the Duties of the Executor

In the context of wills and estate planning, probate refers to the process of testing the will to ensure that it is a valid legal document which stands up to the requirements of state law. Probate in California also includes the transfer of property to the heirs or beneficiaries of the estate, as well as wrapping up the financial affairs of the person who has passed away. In California, the court will appoint someone – often a family member of the decedent – to act as the executor of the estate. In cases where the decedent died without leaving a will to direct the disposition of the assets, the court will appoint an administrator to carry out the process of estate administration.

Central to the duties of the executor during the probate process include:

  • gathering of the assets of the estate
  • performing an exhaustive inventory
  • paying off or otherwise handling any existing debts
  • distributing the remaining assets and property to the beneficiaries

Probate is not necessarily a fast process. It often takes anywhere from 9 to 18 months though probate litigation, assuming other issues do not force the case to take longer.

Legal Strategies for Avoiding Probate

In most cases, it is advisable to avoid probate if possible. California State law makes this possible for estates valued at less than $150,000 by filing an affidavit with the court. Similarly, the spouse or registered domestic partner of the decedent will normally be able to avoid probate of an estate which consists of community property. Another approach for avoiding probate is to implement an irrevocable trust or other type of trust before the date of death, so that the inheritance is transferred out of the estate and will before the probate process.

The Pros and Cons of Probate

The purpose of avoiding probate is to reduce the amount of time that elapses between the date of death and the distribution of assets, as well as to minimize legal costs. On the other hand, there are several benefits of probate, such as ensuring that the provisions of the will are faithfully executed and allowing all interested parties the opportunity to contest provisions which they believe to be unfair. To discover if probate is right for your particular situation, contact an Orange County probate attorney at P. Arnsen Blakely.

We have more than 40 years of experience with estate planning and can start you off with a free consultation.

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