Palm Springs Probate Attorney

Palm Springs Probate Attorney

In spite of all the evidence that points to the positive results of serious estate planning, research shows that more than half of all Americans die without engaging in the process. Working proactively with an adept estate planning attorney will not only protect your estate from unnecessary taxation and creditors, but will quite possibly shield your grieving family from a great deal of added stress at the time of your passing. If you are an heir, and/or an executor of a loved one’s estate, you are likely to be quickly schooled in why estate planning is important.

If you reside in the vicinity of Palm Springs, coming to Heritage Legal for a free consultation is a simple painless step you can take now to protect your loved ones later or to seek assistance in negotiating the pathways of executorship. Chris Heritage, our lead attorney, is well-known for his effective work with probate and estate administration, as well as for his welcoming demeanor and personal concern. Heritage Legal is an inclusive practice; our entire team routinely works with members of the LGBTQ community and all types of family structures.

Probate in California

If the deceased’s assets are in their name only, probate will be required. Probate is the legal process through which the assets of the deceased are transferred to any and all beneficiaries. In California, not all Wills have to go through the full probate process since state law makes several different probate processes available, both in and out of court. Nonetheless, in large estates with complex assets, such as properties or bank accounts held outside of the country, full probate will undoubtedly be necessary. The reason people try to avoid probate is that it can be a costly and time-consuming process.

The Basic Process of Probate

Probate generally includes:

  • Filing a petition with the proper probate court
  • Giving notice to heirs under the Will (or to statutory heirs if no Will exists)
  • Petitioning the court to appoint an executor or administrator for the estate
  • Taking inventory and having an appraisal of estate assets performed
  • Paying off legitimate estate debts
  • Selling estate assets if necessary
  • Paying any remaining taxes owed by the estate
  • Distributing all remaining assets to heirs as directed

Costs of Probate

Cost and duration of probate vary considerably depending on the size and complexity of the estate, and on whether the Will is contested. Typically, the total costs of probate are generally between 2 and 7 percent of the estate’s total value. These costs include: executor fees, attorneys’ fees, court fees, appraisal costs, and surety bonds.

How Long Do You Have To File Probate After Death In California?

In California, you generally have one year from the date of death to file a probate petition. However, there are some exceptions and extensions possible depending on the circumstances of the estate. It's important to consult with an estate planning attorney to determine the specific timeframe applicable to your situation.

How Heritage Legal Can Help You Avoid Probate

The underlying principle that helps to avoid probate is arranging your assets so they are not in your name alone. This is a process Heritage Legal is very familiar with. In California, if you own assets in any of the following ways probate can be avoided:

  • Joint tenancy with someone else
  • As survivorship community property with your spouse
  • In a revocable living trust
  • In an account for which a payable-on-death beneficiary has been named
  • Spousal (or Domestic Partner) Property Petition
  • Life insurance, IRA or pension with a designated beneficiary
  • Bank accounts, stocks or other securities held in a transfer-on-death (TOD) account.

Also, if the total value of the estate is small (under $150,000 at present), your inheritance can be claimed by your beneficiaries during a streamlined probate process.

What happens if your Will is contested?

The only individuals who can contest your Will are those with legal standing to raise objections (i.e. those who are heirs or beneficiaries in your existing Will or a previous one). Most commonly, Will contests occur between children of the deceased, one of whom feels shortchanged, or among family members who feel the wrong person was chosen as executor. Contested Wills generally occur in families already full of conflict and increase the cost and complications of the probate process.

How Heritage Legal Can Help You Administer An Estate

If you have prepared a Will, you have named not only your beneficiaries, but your executor -- the person you trust to manage your estate and distribute your assets. If you haven’t made out a Will, known as dying intestate, or if the individual you named as your executor is unavailable to serve, the court will appoint someone, typically a close family member, to administer your estate.

The executor will be actively involved in managing a reasonably substantial estate for at least 9 to 18 months. There will be files to be formed, taxes and debts to be paid, and assets to be inventoried, appraised and distributed to beneficiaries.

Chris Heritage is well-prepared to assist you if you are the named or appointed executor of a relative’s Will. The procedures can be complicated and confusing, particularly if you do not have a background in accounting. It is also possible that some of the tasks you will have to attend to, such as selling real estate, may require court approval. With Chris at your side, all will run smoothly and you will not be overwhelmed.

He will also ensure that you meet all laws regulating your compliance as a fiduciary. As the executor, you are charged with behaving with complete integrity and will be held liable for any irregularities or mismanagement of estate assets. You will also be responsible for protecting the estate from theft or damage, tasked with filing tax returns, and distributing all remaining funds to beneficiaries, after which the estate will be officially closed. During this process, Heritage Legal will make certain everything is in order and that you receive the fees you are entitled to.

How Heirs Will Be Determined If There Is No Will

The major problem of dying without a Will or any estate planning is that the state will determine who receives your assets. Since you have made no provisions, the court will follow Intestate Succession Laws to portion out your estate as legally required. What might have been your preference will not be taken into account. Succession laws dictate that your spouse (unless he/she has predeceased you) will inherit first, then your children, parents, and any siblings.

Contact Our Palm Springs Probate Attorney

Whether you are the executor, heir or beneficiary of a loved one’s Will, Heritage Legal is available to offer the finest legal representation and the most empathic support you are likely to find anywhere. Our broad knowledge and extensive experience in the areas of probate and estate administration ensure that this difficult period in your life will go as smoothly as possible. Call us or contact us through our website for a free consultation so you can feel the reassurance that comes from receiving professional, personal guidance.

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