What to Know About the Probate Process
Preparing for the end of life is one of those things you know you have to do, but have you actually done it? According to a 2020 survey from Caring.com, only 3 in 10 U.S. adults have a will or trust. That means millions of Americans don’t have the legal documents in place to safeguard their assets and protect their loved ones.
When you pass on, having a will or living trust guarantees that your assets are allocated according to your wishes. In some cases, an estate may have to go through the probate process for proper administration. This involves several steps, including proving the existence of a valid will, identifying and inventorying the property, appraising property, paying taxes and debts, and distributing the remaining property to the heirs. Here’s what you need to know about the probate process in California.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal procedure that takes place after someone dies to determine the rightful owners of the deceased’s estate. Typically, a personal representative is appointed who will be responsible for paying fees and creditors as well as distributing assets to all heirs. This process is made much easier when there is a will that clearly defines your wishes. In this case, the court-supervised proceedings will authenticate the will and approve the named executor to administer the estate as written. Without a will, the court would have to decide who has rights over your assets, and they may not be dispersed in the way that you would have wanted them to be.
Having a solid estate plan can simplify the probate process. The more planning that you do before you die, the easier everything will be for your loved ones when you do pass away. Working with an estate attorney in California can help you avoid the headache of estate planning and ensure that all of your documents are in order.
Facts About Probate in California
Here are some facts that you should know about the probate process in California:
- If you have no estate plan or only have a will, your estate will likely require probate.
- Not all assets are subject to probate. Assets with a named beneficiary, such as assets held in joint tenancy, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts, don’t usually need to undergo the probate process.
- Depending on the complexity of the estate, the probate process can take 12 months or longer to conclude.
- If no executor is named in the will, the court will appoint an administrator. This person is often the closest living relative.
- The personal representative can earn a fee, which is typically 2 to 4% of the probate estate.
- A new probate proceeding must be opened for property that is outside of California.
- After being notified, creditors have four months to issue their claims for the estate.
While the probate process can be straightforward for a simple estate, it can get complicated if there are multiple assets and beneficiaries to consider. This is what makes estate planning so important.
How the Probate Process Works
There are eight steps that are required in the probate process in California.
- A petition will be filed with the court in the county the deceased resided at the time of death. A hearing will be scheduled in approximately 30 days.
- A notice of hearing will be published at least three times in the local newspaper. The notice is also mailed to everyone named in the will as well as any creditors.
- The will is verified by the court to ensure it complies with state laws.
- The personal representative takes possession of assets that are subject to probate.
- Creditors with debts payable by the estate have to submit their claims. If validated by the court, the debts are then paid from the estate.
- The personal representative ensures that all estate taxes are paid.
- A petition that summarizes the actions of the personal representative is filed with the court. The petition includes fees that are to be paid to the representative and the estate attorney. If there are no objections, an order is entered by the court to conclude the estate.
- The representative pays all the necessary fees and distributes remaining assets to the heirs of the estate.
How Much Does Probate Cost?
The probate process involves a number of costs. The exact amount will depend on the size of the estate, if there is a will, and where the deceased resided before his or her passing. The main costs include:
- Attorney fees
- Executor’s compensation
- Probate bond
- Court fees
- Creditor notice fees
These fees must be paid before assets can be distributed to beneficiaries, so many individuals find it advantageous to work with a lawyer to help bypass the probate process altogether.
How to Avoid Probate
Avoiding probate will save you time and money in addition to safeguarding your privacy. Since the probate process is public, avoiding it will ensure assets are distributed more privately. There are several ways that you can reduce the pressure and stress that comes with probate for your loved ones.
- Create and fund a trust. The trust will manage your assets per your guidance when you pass away.
- Distribute assets to your loved ones while you are still alive.
- Title property jointly so that assets can be transferred from one individual to another without the need for the probate process.
- Title accounts to POD (payable on death) or TOD (transfer on death).
Protect Your Loved Ones Today
Creating a comprehensive estate plan that incorporates a living trust is a great way to avoid the lengthy and often complicated probate process. The Law Office of Kyle W. Jones in Bakersfield specializes in estate planning, and we can help you gain the peace of mind that comes with knowing your loved ones are protected after you die. Contact us today to find out more about our services and how we can help you with your estate planning needs.