On the heels of a loved one passing away, going through the probate process can seem daunting and stressful. With several obligations to fulfill, going into probate without any knowledge of the proceedings can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Our Tustin probate team explains what the probate process aims to achieve, as well as how it can be successfully navigated.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of administering a person's estate once they have passed away. It includes analyzing and fulfilling the terms set in a will, gathering and appraising any applicable assets, and paying off any outstanding debts of the deceased.
Outlining The Process
Although no probate experience is the same, with some being different according to the laws of the state, there are aspects of probate that will generally remain the same. In California, the probate process can be a bit overwhelming, but having experienced legal counsel to assist you can lead to a much faster and smoother administration process.
Filing a Petition
The first step in the process is to file a petition with the probate court. In California, this is a Petition for Probate, which is a judicial council form. This step also includes the validation of the will, if any, and seeks the appointment of a personal representative (administrator or executor) to administer the estate.
The initial petition is the point at which a will may be contested, and involves giving notice to interested parties as to the opening of the probate administration.
Sending Notices & Taking Inventory
After a personal representative is appointed, the administration process will begin. This includes, among other things, sending out notices to interested parties (such as creditors or beneficiaries). There are several notices that need to be sent to different entities and interested persons. In conjunction with this, the personal representative will need to inventory and appraise all of the probate assets.
The administrator will then take the time to comb through all of the decedent's assets and determine the estate's total value. It is important to note the value of the items within the estate is determined by their value at the date of death rather than the present value. This process is not only crucial in simply determining the value of assets in question, but it also provides a way of proving that all assets were accounted for and distributed properly. The value of the assets is also utilized to determine compensation for the personal representative and for the attorney for the personal representative.
Another step in the administration includes paying any outstanding debts and taxes on behalf of the decedent and closing any accounts related to finances or retirement.
Distributing Assets & Closing the Estate
Before closing the estate, the last step of the probate process is to distribute the assets to their proper recipients as outlined in the will. Certain assets can take a relatively short time to process, while more valuable items, such as a house, can require more time. Before any distributions can be made, however, a court order is typically required.
Once the court has approved the distribution and compensation to the personal representative and the attorney for the personal representative, it is then time to close the estate.
How Giammichele Law, APC Can Help
Probate can be a long and arduous process, and the team at Giammichele Law, APC is prepared to help provide effective and compassionate legal representation.
While a will contest may be a concern, these are less common than several years back. The more complicated aspect of probate is the administration aspect. We understand how challenging the loss of a loved one can be and we are prepared to help guide you through the administration process and ultimately complete the distributions.
Hiring an attorney can also provide a distinct advantage when handling and collecting assets, including managing any proceeds from retirement and life insurance policies, ensuring nothing gets left behind.
Contact Our Tustin Estate Administration Team Today
We understand that planning for the future can be a daunting and stressful task. At Giammichele Law, APC, we are dedicated to exploring your options and making sure the best interests of both you and your loved ones are upheld.