Palm Springs Probate Process

After a person passes away, their assets will go into a process called probate. The probate process is a legal process in which a probate court judge oversees the distribution of a deceased individual’s estate. At the end of the probate process, either the beneficiaries named in an individual's will or the individual’s heirs-at-law will inherit the estate when there is no will. The probate process can be complex and time-consuming.

Reach Out to a Palm Springs Probate Attorney Today

Do you have questions regarding the probate process? Are you an estate executor who is facing legal challenges from heirs or creditors and facing litigation? Do you have general questions about the probate process and how to avoid it? Attorney Christopher Heritage of Heritage Legal, PC is here to help. Christopher Heritage has a proven track record of successfully representing clients in a wide range of probate matters. Contact Heritage Legal, PC today to learn more.

What Is the Probate Process?

The probate process is a court process that distributes a deceased individual’s assets, also called the decedent. The goal of the probate process is to ensure that the assets in the decedent's estate are given to the people named in the will. When the defendant does not have a will, the probate court will distribute their estate to the rightful heirs under California's intestacy laws.

During the probate process, the court will appoint someone to be in charge of the decedent's estate called an executor or administrator, depending on whether the defendant has a will. The probate court is also responsible for notifying the decedent’s beneficiaries or heirs about the probate process.

Which Assets Are Included In the Decedent’s Estate

The first step in the probate process is evaluating the assets in the estate. Not all assets of a person who passes away will need to go through the probate process. For example, if the decedent owned a bank account, life insurance policy, or retirement account with a named beneficiary, the assets in the account will transfer to the named beneficiary upon the decedent’s death.

Any assets held in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, such as a deed owned by a married couple, will not be subject to the probate process. Assets held in a trust or intended to be held in a trust are not subject to the probate process. Finally, assets with a value of less than $166,250 can pass to heirs without the probate process using a summary proceeding of affidavits.

Understanding the Steps for the Probate Process in California

The first step in the California probate process involves someone filing a petition for probate. Next, the probate court will publish a notice to administer probate to interested individuals. The petition will trigger the court to schedule a hearing in approximately 30 - 60 days. After the petition is filed with the court, the notice of hearing will be published in a local newspaper. It's also necessary to mail the notice to everyone named in the will if there was one, and all legal heirs of the deceased. The probate court needs to provide notice to the potential creditors as well.

The next step is called proving the will unless the will qualifies as a “self-proving” will. At this point in the process, an interested person has the right to challenge the will. Common reasons to challenge a will include a lack of testamentary capacity, fraud, undue influence, or illegalities. The personal representative or executor will begin taking possession of the decedent’s assets as part of the estate. Next, the personal representative must provide notice of the death to the decedent’s creditors and pay the creditors.

The personal representative will also need to pay any estate taxes owed by the estate. Estate taxes include federal estate taxes and state taxes imposed by California. The final step in the probate process involves closing the estate. The personal representative will provide an accounting of all the actions they took regarding the estate. The petition will also describe the fees paid to the estate attorney and personal representative, when applicable. If there are no objections and the court approves the accounting, the probate court will enter the order. The personal representative will distribute the remaining estate assets to the appropriate individuals and pay all necessary fees when this happens.

How Long Does the California Probate Process Take?

The length of time that the probate process takes depends on the estate’s complexity. If the estate is relatively small, the probate process can be probated in six months to a year. For more complex estates, one and a half to two years is more common. Larger estates with more complex assets or that involve challenges to the will can take several years. On average, the estate process can take approximately 18 months.

Ways to Avoid Probate in California

If you would like to avoid the probate process and allow your loved ones to access their inheritance quickly after you pass away, a revocable trust may be for you. After creating a revocable living trust, you can transfer ownership of the assets you choose into the living trust. You can appoint yourself as a trustee and manage the trust during your lifetime. When you pass away, the assets can transfer to your loved ones outside of the probate process. There are many other types of trusts that you can use to meet your estate planning goals and avoid the probate process.

Discuss Your Probate Case With a Skilled Palm Springs Attorney

The probate process can be complicated in California, and attorney Christopher Heritage of Heritage Legal, PC, can help. Whether you will be going through the probate process or would like to create a comprehensive estate plan that avoids the probate process, he can help. Contact Heritage Legal, PC today to learn more about attorney Christopher Heritage's legal services.

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