Navigating the requirements of probate in California can be confusing and frustrating, but with the right legal guidance, you can manage the process with confidence.

The death of a loved one requires you to take certain steps to satisfy legal requirements at a time when you may be overwhelmed with grief and family matters. Being able to rely on a trusted legal advisor during this challenging time makes the process much easier.

The team at Blacksburg Law is ready to assist with estate administration in a variety of ways. We can manage interactions with the court, obtaining the authority you need and completing administrative requirements on your behalf. During each step in the process, we guide you through the requirements, answering your questions and helping you avoid mistakes that could delay the process or cause problems in the future.

Understanding Probate and Estates

Probate refers to the legal process of handling a person’s financial estate after they pass away. The law contains a number of requirements to ensure that the creditors who are owed money first receive their due, then the taxing authorities, then the administrators, and, finally, that heirs or beneficiaries collect the remaining property to which they are entitled.

An estate is the legal term for the property an individual leaves behind when they die, so essentially, everyone leaves an estate of some type. (Your estate includes other things but for purposes of this article, we’re holding tight to stuff.). However, the ownership of some property is set up so that it does not become part of an estate for probate purposes (what we call a “probatable estate”). For instance, if someone sets up a revocable living trust and transfers their assets into that trust, then when they pass away, all those assets will go to trust beneficiaries directly instead of going into a probatable estate. If there is no or very little property in the probatable estate, then it is not necessary to hold a formal estate administration process through the probate court. (This is why people who want to make things easier for their loved ones set up estate plans based on revocable living trusts.)

If the deceased person left accounts such as a retirement account or life insurance policy with a valid beneficiary designation, then the funds in those accounts will go directly to the beneficiary. They will not become part of the probatable estate unless the estate is listed as the beneficiary or the designated beneficiary is deceased with no contingent listed.

Property that is co-owned with a right of survivorship also would not become part of the probatable estate. If there is a property deed or car title with another person listed as a joint tenant, then that co-owner would take over full ownership of the property. However, if property is co-owned as tenants in common, then the partial ownership share of the deceased person would become part of the probatable estate and pass through the probate process.

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    The Requirements of Estate Administration in California

    If the value of property in an estate is below the statutory limit, it may be possible to transfer property through a simplified process. However, in many cases, unless an individual has developed an estate plan designed to avoid probate, then it will be necessary to administer the estate through the probate court.

    Whether or not the deceased person left a will, the person who wants to be in charge of estate administration will need to obtain authority from the court to serve as executor or administrator of the estate. Once the court grants authorization, that person will need to complete a number of tasks such as:

    • Inventorying assets in the estate and filing a record with the court
    • Notifying potential creditors, heirs, and beneficiaries
    • Gathering and evaluating outstanding debts
    • Paying debts according to legal priority
    • Managing estate property and selling assets if necessary
    • Calculating tax liability and filing tax returns

    When the process is nearly complete, the executor or estate administrator will distribute remaining assets in the estate according to the laws of intestate succession or the terms of the will and file a final accounting with the court.

    The entire estate administration process usually lasts for at least 9-18 months. During this time, an attorney can manage many tasks directly on behalf of the estate and provide detailed instructions on how to complete other requirements. In this way, everyone can feel secure that the legal requirements are satisfied in a way that cannot be challenged later.

    Estate Planning Basics

    A START-UP GUIDE TO ESTATE PLANNING

    Download our Estate Planning Basics PDF Guide to get more information about what estate planning is, how it works, what you need to consider, and why Blacksburg Law is the right partner for you.

    Blacksburg Law Helps You Manage Estate Administration with Efficiency

    It is never easy to deal with the loss of a loved one, but assistance from an experienced estate administration attorney can make the process less stressful for your family. The team at Blacksburg Law can guide you step by step until all requirements are fulfilled and your family is prepared to move forward.

    To learn more about how we can help, schedule an appointment with us today.

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