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When someone dies without a trust, or with a trust that was not properly funded, probate administration is necessary. Depending on the size of the deceased person's estate and the type of assets, administration may have to go through the court system.
If you believe this may apply to you, or you are unsure, please set up a consultation to discuss the facts and circumstances of your situation. The death of a loved one brings both emotional and legal challenges. It is important that the legal process be handled efficiently. At Giammichele Law, APC, our Laguna Woods probate attorney works hard to minimize delays to ensure the Probate is promptly completed and the estate distributed.
The California Probate Process
The probate process in California involves several steps, including:
- Filing a petition – To initiate probate proceedings, a petition must be filed with the California Superior Court in the decedent's county of residence at the time of death. A hearing will be scheduled for about 30 days from receipt of the petition.
- Handling notices – After a hearing is scheduled, a notice of the hearing will be published in the local newspaper at least three times. A copy of the notice will also be mailed to all individuals named in the will (if a will is present), as well as all heirs of the deceased. A notice will also need to be given to all potential creditors.
- Proving the will – Unless the will is a “self-proving” will, the validity of the will must be proven.
- Collecting assets – The personal representative will take possession of all the deceased's assets that are subject to probate. He or she will also handle transferring the title of assets into the appropriate person's name. This could include mutual funds, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, brokerage accounts, as well as physical assets such as vehicles, boats, and real property. The court typically requires an inventory of the estate, and sometimes they demand an appraisal of certain assets.
- Paying creditors – Once a creditor has been notified of the death, they must submit a claim for the debts they are owed within four months of the appointment of the personal representative. If the claims are valid, the debts will be paid from the decedent's estate. All valid debts are required to be paid before any other distributions can take place.
- Paying estate taxes – The personal representative must also ensure that all estate taxes are paid. This includes both state and federal estate taxes. If the estate is distributed prior to the paying of estate taxes and there are insufficient funds to pay, the personal representative could be held liable.
- Closing the estate – To close the estate, a petition will be filed with the court. This petition will summarize the estate and provide a report of all the action taken by the personal representative on behalf of the estate. If the court approves, an order will be entered that concludes the estate. At this point, the personal representative may distribute the remaining property to heirs and pay any required fees.
Costs of Probate
The costs of probate include, among other costs along the way, attorney fees, executor fees, appraisal fees, publication fees, and filing fees. Attorney's fees and executor's fees are set by statute as a percentage of the value of the estate assets.
The percentages for probate fees paid to an attorney and/or executor are as follows:
- 4 percent of the first $100,000
- 3 percent of the next $100,000
- 2 percent of the next $800,000
- 1 percent of the next $9,000,000
- 0.5 percent of the next $15,000,000
It is important to understand that if both the attorney and the executor elect to collect a fee, they each will receive the particular percentage of the gross estate. For example, if an estate is worth $100,000, and fees must be paid to both an attorney and an executor, each would receive $4,000.
Appraisal fees depend on the value of assets of the estate, and are ordinarily 0.1% of the appraised assets of the estate. Publication costs between $500-$1,000 and is required to commence the probate proceedings. Each petition filed with the court requires a filing fee of $435.00 and may include a $30.00 charge for a court reporter. A minimum of two petitions must be filed in a probate proceeding.
Work with a Skilled Legal Team
If you are facing probate, Giammichele Law, APC is here to help the process go as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our experienced probate lawyer in Laguna Woods.