Whenever possible, it is best to avoid the probate process, whether in California or any other state. This can be done by establishing a revocable trust. It is generally wise to enlist the help of a skilled estate planning attorney to ensure all is done in accordance with California state law. If a loved one dies, and there is no trust, or they only have a will, probate court cannot be avoided. In these instances, an experienced lawyer will be of invaluable assistance. However, it also helps to learn as much as you can about the process yourself before it begins.
If there is a will, then the first step in the process is to prove the validity of it. If it is deemed to be valid, then the "executor" named in the will has priority to represent the estate. However, if no will exists or the will is found to be invalid, then a court approved administrator must take over the estate. This administrator can either be a party entitled to act, or someone nominated by a party entitled to act. If a valid will exist or not, a petition still has to be submitted to the court to begin a probate.
After a petition has been filed to begin the probate process, the court will set a hearing date and the proposed personal representative will give notice to all the beneficiaries. If the petition is approved, then the proposed representative will officially become either the executor or administrator of the estate. The process will involve the court either issuing "testamentary letters,” or “letters of administration.” The personal representative is responsible for collecting all relevant assets and getting them appraised by a court appointed appraiser. All bills and taxes must be paid by the personal representative, and creditors must be given notice of the decedent’s passing and that a probate has been opened in the estate. To close the estate, the representative must file a court petition with an accounting and a list of proposed distribution of the assets.
Given the fact that the probate process is often lengthy and complex, it is desirable to avoid it with a trust. However, if you can't avoid it, a good attorney experienced in this area of law can help speed things up, save money, and clear up confusion. Mortensen and Reinheimer, PC, in Irvine, CA, offers legal assistance with all areas of estate planning. They also understand every aspect of state probate law and can make the process as smooth and stress free as possible. To learn more or for a consultation, call Mortensen and Reinheimer, PC today at 714-384-6053 or fill out their online form.