At Feldman Law Group, we know how difficult losing a loved one can be, and we are dedicated to supporting you throughout the probate process. California law refers to the person who died as the “decedent” and the property and assets they owned as their “estate.” Our Walnut Creek probate attorney can guide you through the legal process no matter what your situation is and whether the decedent passed away with or without a will.
We can evaluate your situation and educate you on what the legal process entails and whether your loved one’s estate must go through probate.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised legal process of validating a deceased person’s will and gives effect to the terms it lays out according to the decedent’s wishes. The word “probate” comes from the same Latin root as “prove” and “proof,” and indeed, entering a will into probate “proves” that it is the decedent’s valid and enforceable last will and testament. California law can also refer to the decedent as the testator in this case.
After approval of the will, the executor or administrator can then pay debts and distribute the decedent’s estate according to the terms of the will. The decedent may name an executor. The court assigns an administrator if the named executor is unable to perform the tasks or if the decedent designated none.
Before the distribution of assets, a myriad of other tasks, such as the following, requires attention:
- Notifying creditors of the probated estate
- Filing a final tax return for the estate
- Collecting and inventorying all assets of the estate
- Managing, selling, or liquidating estate assets as appropriate
- Paying debts or resolving claims against the estate
How to File for Probate in California
Filing for probate in California can often be a complicated and overwhelming process. Fortunately, with the help of a skilled Walnut Creek probate attorney, you can navigate the legal requirements and paperwork with ease.
The steps on how to file a petition for probate in California are as follows:
- Identify the appropriate county for filing
- Fill out the Petition for Probate form
- Take the will and petition to the probate court clerk’s office
- Send a copy of the Will to the Executor (if applicable)
When filing for probate in California, it’s important to understand that there are two different types of probate. The first is a formal probate proceeding where an executor is appointed by the court to manage the estate and distribute assets according to the instructions in the will. The second type of probate is called informal probate and does not require court supervision.
Your Walnut Creek probate attorney can assist with:
- Filing all of the necessary paperwork
- Organizing financial records
- Preparing court documents
- Representing you in negotiations with creditors
Your Walnut Creek probate attorney can help you understand all of your legal responsibilities and guide you through the entire process. They will also be able to provide advice on how best to handle any disputes that may arise over estate assets or other matters.
What Assets Do Not Go Through Probate?
California estates with a value of less than $184,500 may not require going through probate and can benefit from simplified processes that do not involve going to court to transfer assets.
Probate generally does not address the following types of assets:
- Accounts with a named beneficiary, such as retirements accounts or life insurance usually transfer to the appropriate beneficiary after providing a death certificate and proper identification to the financial institution.
- Assets held in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship usually go under the sole name of the surviving owner upon reception of a death certificate.
- Assets held in a living trust get distributed according to the terms the Trustor established.
Whether certain assets must go through probate depends on whether the decedent had a trust or not. If someone dies without a trust, probate will be required. If someone dies without a will, intestate laws oversee the distribution of the decedent’s estate. The laws of intestacy sets the order of priority among the decedent’s relatives and how much of the estate they will receive.
Protect Your Loved Ones' Inheritance with a Trust
While probate is necessary, it can be time-consuming, expensive, and public. Consider creating a trust to ensure a seamless transfer of assets to your loved ones in order to skip the probate process.
Through the use of a trust, you can give control of your assets to a trustee who will handle and allocate them in accordance with your wishes. Building a trust enables you to:
- Avoid probate: Assets kept in trust are not subject to probate, saving your loved ones time, money, and stress.
- Keep your family's affairs private: Unlike probate, which is a public process, a trust provides for the private transfer of assets, keeping your family's affairs private.
- Incapacity provisions: A trust might include provisions for managing your assets if you become incapable, ensuring your financial matters are taken care of.
- Control asset distribution: A trust allows you to decide how and when your assets are dispersed to your beneficiaries, so protecting their inheritance.
At Feldman Law Group, our seasoned probate attorneys in Walnut Creek can assist you in creating a trust that meets your specific needs and goals. do not hesitate to reach out to us to request a consultation and learn more about how a trust can help protect your loved ones' inheritance.
Probate Matters Feldman Law Group Can Assist You with in Alameda County
Being named executor for probate can be daunting, and our team is here to help you understand the process and respect the decedent’s wishes so you and the beneficiaries may achieve the division and distribution of all assets with a minimum of stress. We also assist beneficiaries involved in probate to understand their benefits.
Attorney Feldman can assist various types of individuals during probate such as:
- Other relatives
We understand the complexity of the process and we can help you at every step. Whether you are bringing or defending a claim, we can carefully assess your situation and help you establish the necessary documentation to move forward with probate. A small estate may complete probate in less than a year, but many estates take one to two years to go through the whole process.