PROBATE AND ESTATE ADMINISTRATION
At the Law Office of Susan A. Katzen, we understand the unique set of challenges you and your family face after the death of a loved one.
Closing out a loved one’s estate is often stressful, time-consuming, and costly during an already difficult, overwhelming, and emotional time. To help families and individuals expedite the probate process and administer their loved one’s estate in the fastest and most cost-effective way possible, our Newport Beach law firm offers a full-service approach to probate and trust administration in the greater Los Angeles area (serving Orange, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties).
Our unique estate administration process is designed to minimize headaches, quickly transfer assets, and ensure all legal requirements are satisfied within the appropriate deadlines to more easily and efficiently close out the estate.
WHAT IS IT AND HOW DO I FILE
Probate is a legal process to finalize and administer a loved one’s estate after death. Your family may work closely with the Superior Court in the county where your loved one died to:
- Determine the validity of the will(s)
- Identify and inventory the deceased’s property
- Appraise the property
- Pay your loved one’s debts and taxes; and
- Distribute the remaining property according to the will or according to state law in the absence of a will
In California, if someone has more than $166,250 in total assets or real property valued over $55,425, they will probably have to have their assets probated.
Not all assets will need to go through probate, though. Assets such as retirement accounts or life insurance policies that have specific beneficiary designations (commonly referred to as “Payable on Death” accounts or “Transfer on Death” accounts) will most likely avoid the expense and delays of the probate court.
Probate can be overwhelming and frustrating, but the purpose of it is to ensure a valid transfer of documents and assets. Because your loved one is unable to “sign on the dotted line” regarding his or her final affairs, the court must appoint someone (the executor) to handle this responsibility and close out the estate.
DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY TO FILE PROBATE?
Because probate is such a time consuming, costly, and complicated process, you should seek the help of a probate attorney. A skilled attorney will help to ensure that all legal obligations are met and assist in speeding up the overall process. Working with an attorney will also help you to minimize costs commonly associated with oversights, tax problems, and long, drawn-out claims.
CAN I AVOID PROBATE?
If your loved one died with a trust in place, it may be possible to avoid the probate process. So long as the trust has stayed updated and your loved one’s assets are properly owned by the trust, the trust can be administered privately with the help of your attorney. If the trust was not properly funded (meaning assets were not titled in the name of the trust), you may still need to go through probate. Your attorney will help to determine your next steps.