What is probate?
After a loved one dies, the legal process known as probate takes place. As it is overseen by probate court, it typically includes the following:
- Proof that the will of the deceased is valid
- The identifying and proving of property
- Property appraisal
- Payment of debts and taxes
- Distribution of property per the will
For the most part, probate involves paperwork and court appearances by lawyers. The lawyer and court fees are paid by the inheritance left in the decedent's will. If no will exists, someone must request that the court appoint an administrator of the decedent's estate.
1. Filing a Petition
The entire probate process starts with filing a petition with the court (as outlined above), to " (1) admit the will to probate and appoint the executor or (2) if there is no will, appoint an administrator of the estate." This is done to provide proof to all of the decedent's heirs as to the legitimacy of the will. At this time, heirs are allowed to object to the petition.
2. The Appraisal Process Begins
The representative then provides notice to all creditors of the estate, which allows them to claim assets in the window of time provided. At this point an inventory of all of the decedent's property takes place. (For additional information about CA laws on probate click here.)
3. All Debts are Paid by the Estate
The representative must decide which (if any) of the creditor's claims are legitimate and accurate, and must use the funds from the estate to pay any final bills. If the court allows, the representative is allowed to liquidate assets to satisfy these bills.
4. Transference of Property and Assets
After all of the final bills have been satisfied, at this point in probate the representative petitions the court for the authority to transfer the assets to the beneficiaries named in the will. If no will exists, the state laws dictate the transference. It also during this time that any trusts are set up for minors, new deeds for property are written up, stock is transferred, and so on.
The bottom line is that a properly drafted, and regularly updated, will is an important legal document for all living persons to have. The less hassle it is for your legal representative to fulfill your final requests, the easier it is for all of those involved.
For additional information on wills, trusts, estate planning, or probate law, please contact us, or call one of our Torrance estate planning lawyers today at (888) 910-6652 for your free initial consultation.