Palm Springs Law Blog

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

What to Know if a Person's Estate Goes to Probate

Losing a loved one can prove devastating. When you are dealing with such strong emotions and putting one foot in front of the other, you probably don’t want to have to deal with figuring out their estate – let alone if it goes to probate. 

Probate is a legal process in which a court-appointed executor helps to settle an individual’s estate and ensure its validity. Unfortunately, though, probate can be quite expensive and lengthy – it can even last for years. 

Is There a Way to Avoid Probate?

You may possibly be able to avoid the probate process if the executor of the estate can prove that all of the person’s debts have been paid by their estate and no significant debts remain. In such a situation, the court may decide whether or not to settle the estate. Sometimes the court will use an affidavit.

Unfortunately, if the person passes intestate (without a will) and/or an interpretable estate plan, or if Medicaid or social services are involved the court will likely find that the probate process is necessary. That is just one reason why it is so important to have a proper estate plan. 

How Long Does Probate Take?

When an individual passes, an individual (the executor, widow/er, family lawyer, or other) must file the will with the probate court. They can do so along with a death certificate. But regardless of whether or not a will exists, the probate process generally takes many months to complete.

How Does the Probate Process Work?

Commonly the probate process will follow the following steps:

  1. A hearing takes place and a judge decides the validity of the Will. If there is no Will, the heirs of the estate will receive a summons to attend the hearing. At the hearing they may voice any concerns they have about the estate.
  2. Next, the judge appoints an executor, choosing among the individual designated in the Will, a legal heir, or a surviving spouse. The individual(s) who have been offered the executor position have the right to decline it. The heirs and the executor will then sign the documents, in order to make their positions official. 
  3. Once the positions have been established and confirmed, the executor must make sure that all creditors have been notified of the individual’s death and must prepare tax returns for the deceased.
  4. When all debts have been paid off, the executor files the correct paperwork necessary to begin distributing the assets to the correct beneficiaries. If no Will exists, the court will decide the heirs.

Heritage Legal, PC Helps Those in California with Their Estate Planning Needs

Despite its sometimes-complex nature, the probate process can help to calm your fears and concerns, as the law serves to protect the estate and the wishes of the deceased; you just have to know how to properly create it. That’s why consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced estate planning attorney is your best option. At Heritage Legal, PC, we understand the importance of protecting the very things that you care about. We help you to build an estate plan that meets your needs and the needs of your family. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

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