Orange County Probate Lawyer
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Whether or not you have begun the planning process for your will, it is likely you have heard the term probate discussed, and likely how you can avoid probate. Probate is the process of paying off the debts of a deceased person and properly distributing the estate among the designated heirs. While not necessarily a bad thing, probate can be a complicated process and working with an experienced Orange County probate lawyer can make the process easier on your heirs and family. The team at Evolution Tax and Legal is here to help break down the probate process, and let you know how we can help.
Why Hire Evolution Tax and Legal To Help With Probate Matters in Orange County?
The team at Evolution Tax and Legal is dually-certified in law and accounting, which allows us to provide a unique set of value insights into the legality of probate matters, as well as provide individuals with financial insights and understand the implications of the process. At Evolution Tax and Legal:
- We have the knowledge and experience to provide the best possible service to handle your probate matters as seamlessly as possible.
- We will ensure that all the probate process is valid and enforceable, using our legal expertise to provide an extra level of service that a regular financial planner could not provide.
- We provide insight and guidance into the court-supervised process, ensuring your needs and wishes are met to the best of our ability.
- Our Orange County estate planning attorneys provide financial guidance on tax implications and other aspects of inheritance once the estate is distributed among heirs.
- We provide a personalized experience, working with our clients to understand them and their goals, in order to provide them with guidance that will work for the individual.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised procedure of distributing a deceased person’s estate. The process involves authenticating the deceased’s will, paying off any debts the deceased had incurred and ultimately distributing the estate among beneficiaries listed in the will. It is not a guarantee that an estate must go to probate, and it is typically determined by laws in the state where the estate is.
What Does a Probate Attorney Do?
A probate lawyer’s main job will be to help the executor of the estate manage the probate process. This will look different depending on if the deceased had a will or not. If the deceased had a will, the probate lawyer will typically act as an advisor on legal matters to the estate executor and beneficiaries. One matter that an Orange County probate lawyer can typically be a major part of was ensuring the will was not written under duress or against the best wishes of an individual.
If the deceased did not have a will, the probate attorney may assist an administrator of the estate, similar to an executor, with the distribution of assets according to state law. A probate attorney is bound by state intestacy laws during the probate process of a deceased person without a will, and must follow the process regardless of the wishes of the deceased or the beneficiaries. A probate lawyer can assist in the process of assigning an administrator to the estate, for example if a relative would like to become the administrator of a deceased’s estate, they must secure a legal document referred to as renunciations from other relatives of the deceased. A probate attorney in Orange County can help an administrator secure these renunciations, then assist the administrator with the probate process per state law.
The California Probate Process
If it is determined that probate is necessary in California, the first step in the probate process will be someone coming forward and starting the process. In the case of an estate with a will, this will likely be the executor of the estate. In the case of a deceased who has died intestate, or without a written will, then usually a family member will request the start of the process, and an administrator will be appointed.
The executor’s job in this process will probably last anywhere from 6 months to 1 year. It begins when the executor files the will and a “Petition for Probate” document with the county in which the deceased resided. The filing fee for the petition is usually around $435, but can be more depending on the county in which the petition is filed. Once the will is determined to be valid, usually through witnesses attesting to the fact, the court will issue “Letter Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration” which appoints an executor and grants them the right to control the assets of the estate.
The process that follows will include the executor gathering the deceased’s assets. Many executors begin this by setting up a filing system so no benefits or bills are overlooked in the process. This is the time when an executor will apply for a taxpayer ID number with the estate and open a bank account for the estate. This process sounds complicated, and it very easily can become overwhelming without the guidance of an experienced probate attorney.
In California, the probate process is handled under the state’s Independent Administration of Estates act, which gives an executor the power to carry out most probate matters without asking for permission from the courts. Without court supervision, an executor is able to pay taxes, sell estate property and reject claims from creditors. It will also be the executor’s job to keep the assets held in the estate safe throughout the probate process, and an executor is in charge of safeguarding heirlooms from theft or damage and insuring any houses.
After all the bills and taxes the deceased had are paid and taken care of, an executor can file to have the court close the estate. At this point, the executor will distribute all remaining assets among the beneficiaries in accordance with the wishes of the deceased or the state laws if the deceased died intestate. This is the conclusion of the probate process.
When Is Probate Required in California?
Probate is not always necessary, and all states follow different determinations on when probate is required. In California, probate is required frequently, however there are two different types of probate processes, which are determined based on the value of the estate. If the estate is valued at less than $166,250, a simplified probate process can be used. Whether or not probate is required is also based on the type of assets a deceased held, and if anyone owned the asset with the deceased. For example, probate is not required if the deceased owned property in joint tenancy with another individual or in a living trust.
What Assets Are Subject to Probate in California?
Typically, most assets and personal possessions that are individually owned by the deceased are subject to probate in California. This includes any homes or vehicles the deceased was the sole owner of, any jewelry, art, furniture and personal possessions, any form of real estate or property that was solely owned in the name of the deceased and any intangible assets such as investments, checking and savings accounts and cryptocurrency. If you have further questions about what assets are subject to probate in California, speak with an experienced Orange County probate lawyer at Evolution Tax and Legal.
What Assets Are Exempt From Probate in California?
There are certain assets that are always exempt from probate in California, some depending on the type of asset and others depending on the type of ownership the deceased held of the asset. For example, assets which are held in a revocable living trust or assets in which a payable-on-death beneficiary have been named will not have to go through probate. Other assets that are exempt from probate include:
- Retirement Accounts: Assets such as IRAs, 401ks and other retirement accounts typically have a named beneficiary associated with the account, and as such do not have to go through the probate process.
- Trustee Accounts: Any assets that are held in a bank account where the deceased was named as trustee, conservator or guardian are exempt from the probate process.
- Marriage/Community Property: Any assets that are registered in a married couple’s name as community property with the right of survivorship will not have to go through probate.
- Life Estate: These assets terminate at death and therefore will not go through the probate process.
Depending on the type of asset and the type of ownership the deceased had on the asset, there may be additional assets that are exempt from probate. Speaking with an experienced Orange County probate attorney can help you determine if an estate has any additional exempt assets, and avoid including assets in the lengthy probate process unnecessarily.
How Much Does It Cost To Hire a Probate Lawyer?
Probate attorneys will typically charge clients using one of three methods: a fee based on hourly service, a flat fee, or payments based on the percentage of an estate’s value. The exact amount of fees typically depends on a variety of factors, including experience and location.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Probate Lawyer in Orange County, CA
The probate process can be lengthy and complicated, and when an executor is put in charge of this process it can easily become overwhelming without proper guidance. The team at Evolution Tax and Legal is experienced in handling the complicated probate process, and our probate attorneys will work with you as a partner to determine the best course of action to protect your wishes as well as the rules of the state throughout this process. Contact our team today to schedule a free consultation to learn more about our probate services.