If you have recently experienced the loss of a loved one and have learned that valuable assets, such as a residential property, are now undergoing probate proceedings, you might be wondering what this process entails and why it is necessary.
This article will break down the probate process, explain why consulting a probate lawyer is important, and address some of the most frequently asked questions to help you navigate this situation with clarity and confidence.
We will also discuss how you can protect your legacy by working with a probate lawyer in California. We made this as comprehensive as possible to help those unfamiliar with probate and how it works.
Defining the Probate Process
Probate is when someone dies and leaves property or money to be distributed. It is the legal process by which an asset or an estate of a deceased individual is administered to its rightful receivers.
Understanding the Role of a Probate Lawyer
A probate lawyer or probate attorney is a professional authorized to practice law in a given jurisdiction to assist the executor of an estate and the beneficiaries in wrapping up the decedent’s assets.
Since a legal process bounds the probate process, the procedure must be followed according to the laws of the state where the decedent lived and any other states where they owned property at the time of their death.
The beneficiaries of an estate may also seek counsel from a probate lawyer on various issues brought up by the executor. It can happen if the beneficiary and executor cannot mutually agree.
A probate lawyer’s job and responsibilities include the following:
When is Probate Necessary in California?
Probate happens when there is a need to settle an asset after someone’s passing. If the requirements for probate are not met, you can sell your property as usual. Again, probate is only necessary when there is a need to settle the property before distribution.
If your California estate is worth over $150,000 and the decedent lacks trust, the assets should undergo probate. It involves authenticating wills and paying the property’s or asset’s debts. Moreover, probate in California is necessary if:
It is a necessary process to ensure that rightful heirs receive their inheritance and not be denied it owing to inadequate record-keeping or other concerns.
What Happens If You Don't File a Probate in California?
Filing probate is an essential and unavoidable part of the legal procedure in California. There may be severe consequences in store for you if you choose not to do it, fail to carry out all of the necessary procedures correctly, or do not file the required documents.
If an estate does not go through the probate process, the assets may stay frozen, meaning that they can only be sold or transferred as intended once the court orders them to be able to do so.
A probate process may be complicated for some, but it will pass smoothly and quickly if you have enough knowledge about it.
Benefits of Hiring a Probate Lawyer
As an executor, the probate process might become too taxing for you to handle alone, especially when conflicts from claims and other issues arise.
Hiring a probate lawyer will help you regain control and focus on the process. Here are the best reasons why you should hire a California probate lawyer:
In-depth Knowledge of the Probate Process
A probate attorney in California is qualified to advise clients and answer their questions at every stage of the probate process. In short, your probate attorney will help you make informed choices and suitable decisions concerning the probate process.
Beneficiary Rights Protection
An expert probate attorney can help ensure that beneficiaries get what they are entitled to from the estate. They can also act as a beneficiary’s legal representative in court.
Aid in Completing Paperwork
Undergoing a probate process includes loads of paperwork that must be completed. A probate lawyer can be an invaluable resource when it comes to various legal documents, such as wills, deeds, and financial records.
A seasoned probate lawyer can assist you in making sure that all the paperwork is set and help you navigate through the maze of many legal requirements.
Their knowledge and expertise are crucial in avoiding unnecessary setbacks and getting assets to beneficiaries as quickly as possible.
A lawyer specializing in probate law might act as a mediator to assist in settling disagreements on mutually agreeable terms.
Proper and Timely Distribution of Asset
An experienced probate attorney can help speed up the transfer of assets, which can otherwise drag on for a long time.
Safeguarding the Legacy
A probate attorney’s services are crucial for shielding an estate from any claims made by creditors. They can also offer guidance on estate taxes and equitable property division.
How to Choose the Right Probate Lawyer in California
When hiring a probate lawyer, you should also consider their reputation. It will speak much of their capabilities, efficiency, professionalism, and achievements.
Hire someone only after knowing their credentials and background. You should hire them based on what they can do for you and your case.
Here are some guidelines on how you can choose the right probate attorney from the pool of probate lawyers in California:
Research or Ask Around for Prospective Probate Lawyers
The first step is to look into the available options for local probate attorneys. Try to find someone with a specialization and enough skill set about probate law and who has previously dealt with instances like yours.
You can get referrals from friends or family, search online directories, or contact the local bar organization.
Verify Their Qualifications
Once you have identified ideal candidates, you should verify their eligibility to practice law in your state and their status with the bar. You can learn more by visiting their or the state bar association’s websites.
Check Their References
Inquire about the lawyer’s experience working with clients in a similar situation. You can also talk to their former clients and ask about their experience with your prospective lawyer.
Use these references to learn more about the lawyer’s work ethic and client satisfaction.
Make an Appointment or a Meeting with Them
Talk to the attorney and learn more about their track record and strategy. Discuss your concerns regarding their professional fees, communication style, and experience handling probate issues during your consultation.
We also recommend looking for a probate lawyer near your area so you can communicate more easily with them.
Hiring an effective probate lawyer will help you keep the legacy of your deceased loved one and shield their hard-earned assets from false claims.
The best probate lawyer will do their best to help their clients have a smoother process that will drastically lessen their burdens during these challenging times.
If you’re looking for a probate lawyer who listens and puts their clients first, you’ve come to the right place!
Join our growing online community and be the first to receive the latest news and updates about the local probate process in California:
Frequently Asked Question
Remember that the estate, not the executor, pays the probate counsel. If you are the sole beneficiary and executor, the charge will be deducted from the funds that will eventually be yours.
If the deceased person did not leave enough money to cover the fee, the estate would be reduced before being distributed.
Fees for probate attorneys and executor commissions in California are calculated using the estate’s gross worth per California Probate Code sections 10800 and 10810.
The California court looks at the value of the assets subject to probate.
|Probate Fee Percentage||Gross Value of Probate Estate|
|4% on the first||$100,000|
|3% on the next||$100,000|
|2% on the next||$800,000|
|1% on the next||$9 million|
|0.5% on the next||$15 million|
|Above $25 million||Court will decide|
To learn more, you may read through our comprehensive guide on probate fees.
Probate in California must be finalized within a year of the executor’s appointment, often months following the date of passing.
However, the procedure can take 18 months to two years when courts have delays or mistakes made by anyone involved in the case.
A probate lawyer is not mandatory in California. However, hiring one is recommended due to the complexity of the probate procedure.
Proper filing of all required documents is essential to the success of the probate process, and an expert may ease the burden of this complicated process.
They may also represent you before the court if there are objections to the will and advise you on transferring your assets according to its terms.
Probate is not required to distribute all of your assets. Those assets only in your name are the most obvious candidates for probate, such as money in the bank, stocks, bonds, a house, other property, cars, etc. Check out the 8 Things You Need to Know About Probate in Southern California for more details.
Probate can be handled without the assistance of an attorney. However, most clients seek out the services of a probate law firm because they know they can trust lawyers to manage any unexpected legal complications that may arise.
After all, when it comes to legal procedures, cases, hearings, or anything related to the law, lawyers are the ones with the most knowledge.
If you have no extensive background in probate, your probate knowledge may be of little use to you during complicated situations.
You’ll need to put in some time and energy to handle your probate case. You’ll be on your own to fill out forms, schedule hearing appearances, and more. Hiring a probate lawyer will help you save valuable time and money.