Torrance Probate Lawyers
Helping Families Through Probate in the South Bay
When a person dies, their estate executor or administrator is in charge of paying outstanding debts and distributing all remaining assets to beneficiaries as designated in the deceased's will. This is referred to as probate and can be quite time-consuming without the guidance of a Torrance probate attorney.
At the Law Offices of James C. Shields, we want to simplify this process for you as much as possible.
If you are responsible for administering your deceased loved one's estate, turn to our firm for the help you need to handle this process efficiently and effectively. With decades of experience, we are well-acquainted with California probate laws and can be a valuable asset in what could be a very challenging time.
Our firm can handle all aspects of probate, including:
Call us at (310) 626-4404 to discuss your situation with a South Bay probate lawyer. Our firm can put more than 50+ years of collective experience to work for you.
Overview of the Probate Process in California
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
- Identifying and proving 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. Below is a brief overview of the process.
Step 1: Filing a Petition with the Court
The probate process starts with filing a petition with the court 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.
Step 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.
Step 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.
Step 4: Transference of Property and Assets
After all of the final bills have been satisfied, the representative petitions the court for the authority to transfer assets to the beneficiaries. If no will exists, state laws dictate the transference. It is also during this time that trusts are set up for minors, new deeds for property are written up, stock is transferred, and so on.
Handle Probate Costs with an Affordable Attorney
When a loved one passes away without completing a comprehensive estate plan or finalizing a revocable living trust, the estate will have to go through probate for review and analysis. Probate court does come with a cost, however, and inheritors or the appointed executor will need to pay out of their own pockets.
If they don't, the will could become frozen and all assets would remain undistributed.
Some of the costs associated with probate include:
- Court fees
- Accounting fees
- Appraisal and business evaluation fees
- Bond fees
- Administration fees
State law dictates how much a lawyer can charge for services involving probate; however, attorneys have the right to ask for "extraordinary fees," which can be any amount above the legal standard. In short, some legal professionals may try to take an unfair portion of your estate just for helping you sort through it.
When you retain the help of a Torrance probate lawyer from the Law Offices of James C. Shields, you can expect excellent representation at a fair cost. By offering free case evaluations, our firm can determine an agreeable fee, so you can avoid being surprised with a staggering bill at the end of probate.
Is Probate Always Necessary in California?
During probate, the administrator is responsible for a wide variety of tasks, including posting a bond, gathering assets for appraisal, and paying outstanding debts. It should be noted, however, that probate isn't always necessary. Depending on various factors, including the value of an estate and the remaining assets, you may be able to avoid the probate process altogether – which is something you can discuss with a lawyer.
If your deceased loved one did any of the following, probate may be unnecessary:
- Utilized beneficiary designations on bank and retirement accounts
- Purchased life insurance policies
- Set aside lifetime gifts for family and friends
- Put real estate into joint tenancy
- Executed a revocable living trust
In the event that probate is required, it can be difficult to navigate all of the various legal obligations on your own. Filing paperwork and preventing possible conflict over the estate is better accomplished by way of an experienced probate attorney who is familiar with the process. Our attorneys at the Law Offices of James C. Shields have both the qualifications and knowledge necessary to achieve a successful outcome.
Why Is It Beneficial to Minimize a Probate Estate?
Inheritors cannot access the items, monies, and properties left behind for them if everything is tied up in probate. The less items that are in the probate estate, the less inheritors there are who need to wait for probate to end to receive their inheritances. A minimized probate estate also reduces the amount of fees that will need to be paid to the probate administer and increases the amount of tax money you can keep.
How Do I Know if Estate Taxes Will Affect Me or My Family?
An estate tax is any tax implemented against inherited property. If the total estate value is below the average estate value in the state, it is likely that no estate tax will be imposed at all. Always review your estate’s property at least once a year; Congress can and often does revise the exclusion level annually.
Let a Qualified Lawyer Walk You Through This Process
Following the death of a loved one, you shouldn't have to face such an immense responsibility on your own. That is why our probate attorneys in South Bay are here. We look forward to representing your best interests and preserving the desires of your loved one even after they're gone. Get started on the process today.
Contact the Law Offices of James C. Shields today at (310) 626-4404 to schedule your FREE initial consultation with one of our dedicated probate attorneys in Torrance, CA.
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