The death of a loved one is never easy. Trying to navigate the complex California probate process can make an emotionally difficult time even harder. Rancho Cucamonga probate lawyer Frank J. Prainito understands the turmoil that the death of a family member can cause. He can guide you through the legal process with compassion and care. Consulting an estate planning lawyer is an important step to take to make sure that your interests and your loved one’s wishes are properly protected.Understanding a Probate Estate and the Roles of the Executor or Administrator
A probate estate is made up of assets that the deceased person held in their name at the time of their death. Some types of property are not included in a probate estate, such as property held jointly, community property owned with a surviving spouse, property held in a trust, and insurance proceeds. Any other property titled in the name of the deceased person will go through the probate court in order to transfer the title to an heir or a beneficiary under a will.
California executors (appointed according to the provisions of a will) and administrators (appointed by a probate court when there is no will) have the same duties and perform the same functions. They administer the estate by filing paperwork, by providing information to the court, creditors, and beneficiaries, and by signing necessary documents.
The first thing that an executor does is file the will, if there is one, and file a petition for probate with the court. The filing fees vary by county, with $435 being the usual fee. Some counties require an additional fee upon the final distribution of the probate assets. Once the petition has been filed, the court will issue letters of administration granting the executor authority to conduct business on behalf of the estate. The executor must obtain a tax ID number for the estate and open an estate bank account in order to pay bills that the estate may have and to distribute funds to beneficiaries. Debts must be paid, such as funeral expenses and utility or credit card bills. Creditors have a right to file claims against the estate in probate court, but usually the executor pays the bills without a formal claim from the creditor for the sake of efficiency. Most transactions can be made by the executor without prior approval from the court. Once the assets are distributed, the estate can be closed. An experienced probate attorney in the Rancho Cucamonga area can help you with the details of administering a probate estate.When is Probate Necessary?
If the assets of the deceased person were held jointly, or a surviving spouse holds title under a survivorship deed, the asset may not need to go through probate. Assets held in trust likewise fall outside the probate estate. Life insurance is a contract under which the life insurance company pays the proceeds of the policy directly to the insurance beneficiaries, so it is not part of the probate estate. However, if there is no beneficiary listed on a life insurance policy, the proceeds will become part of the probate estate.
Estates in California that are less than $150,000 do not need to go through the full probate court process. The heirs or beneficiaries can simply file an affidavit, along with the will if there is one, with the probate court claiming the right to the probate asset. There is a 40-day waiting period for non-real estate assets and a six-month waiting period for the transfer of real estate. Real estate transferred by affidavit cannot exceed $50,000 in value.What if There is No Will?
California law determines who inherits from a decedent when there is no will. Typically, the court will look for heirs and distribute the assets to the closest living relatives.Discuss Your Situation with a Probate Lawyer in Rancho Cucamonga
Each county probate court has its own set of procedures and filing fees. We can use our local knowledge to shorten your probate case and conserve probate estate assets. Our office represents people who need a wills or trusts lawyer in in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Redlands, Victorville, Fontana, Ontario, Indio, Moreno Valley, Riverside, Temecula, Palm Desert, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Burbank, as well as other cities in San Bernardino, Riverside, and Los Angeles Counties. Contact Rancho Cucamonga probate attorney Frank J. Prainito online or call (909) 481-3626 to have an experienced attorney help you make sure that no stone is left unturned in the probate process.