Irvine Probate Attorney


When a loved one passes on, it is an emotional and often devastating life event. In the midst of your grief, though, you may still face complex responsibilities, especially if you are an heir, a beneficiary, or an executor of the decedent’s estate and assets. This process is time-consuming and intimidating, but it can be less so when you have the help of an Irvine probate attorney.

In some cases, small estates in Orange County, California, may be dealt with outside probate court. However, most people find that the time, effort, and knowledge required to navigate the probate legal process and the unique rules and statutes in California should be handled by a dedicated and compassionate Irvine probate lawyer.

If you possess the will of an individual who has recently passed away, you are obligated to file it with the probate court in California within a reasonable amount of time. You may actually file the will and death certificate simultaneously, and in doing so, you must also file a petition to open probate of the estate. If there is a more recent version of the will, everyone involved with the settling of the estate will then be allowed to voice any objections to the wording of the will.

In some cases, a family member or other individual will object to the will and assert that it has been drafted improperly. They may claim that the executor is wrongly appointed or that the will was altered under duress at the last minute. If you are facing disagreements and disputes over the estate of a loved one or of which you are the executor, you will need to consult a local probate attorney.

Irvine Probate Attorney


For over three decades, the Law Office of Christopher P. Walker has successfully and efficiently handled probate disputes as well as other estate law cases, including wills and trusts, family disputes, the distribution of assets, and elder care.

Christopher P. Walker is highly adept at handling protracted cases or situations with unusual challenges; his combination of compassion and determination makes him an outstanding asset in addressing disputes in a timely and economical manner while offering personalized attention and empathetic communication. He has served clientele from throughout Orange County, including Anaheim, Anaheim Hills, Yorba Linda, Villa Park, Orange, and Irvine.

Our legal team is dedicated to providing excellent and extensive resources to any case involving the intricacies of probate law, and we offer an individualized, detail-oriented experience you won’t always find with other probate attorneys. Because we are a smaller firm, our lower overhead costs will save you money in fees.

Moreover, we have the ability to bring in extra resources such as tax or forensic accountants, but we will not needlessly do so simply for the sake of billing hours. The Law Office of Christopher P. Walker has a focus on quality, not quantity, and our mission is to enable clients to close their loved one’s estate as seamlessly as possible so that their remaining assets can be distributed according to their wishes.


When an individual passes away in Irvine, California, any property they own in title under their name can exclusively be changed to the name of an heir in a court process known as probate. In probate court, heirs or beneficiaries can request this change, after which they can determine whether they want to keep the property or sell it.

In Orange County, a judge must authenticate the last will and testament of the deceased if they have written one prior to their death. The executor must then locate the individual’s assets and address any remaining taxes, debts, or bills before distributing what assets remain to the family and other beneficiaries.

Probate disputes arise when, in the process of settling a decedent’s estate, one or more individuals challenge the legal parameters of the will or trust. They may claim that the will or parts of the will are invalid or that the deceased was compelled to make changes to the will under duress.

They may ask for executors or trustees to be removed from their role for various reasons, or they may assert that they deserve to claim a share of the estate even though the wishes of the deceased state otherwise. These disputes are time-consuming and emotionally charged and can become an exercise in frustration without the assistance of a dependable and hardworking estate law attorney.


Although not necessary in every single situation, probate is generally required in California. In Orange County, the value of most estates is greater than $166,250, which is the maximum amount an estate can be valued at in order to utilize simplified procedures to avoid probate court.

An example of assets that automatically transfer is real estate owned by a married couple, in which case the property would transfer to the surviving spouse. Another example is a life insurance policy going automatically to the named beneficiary.

In these cases, a simple estate may be settled solely by the executor. For instance, in a situation where the estate’s assets are large enough to cover any debts, there are no legal threats, disputes, or contests to the will, and no business matters involving the estate, the executor could avoid probate court. The fact of the matter is that most estates require an attorney’s assistance, even if the decedent did extensive planning before their passing.

Unfortunately, family members may end up fighting after the loss of a loved one, especially when assets such as property, investments, business holdings, and other valuables are at stake. Even when a will or trust has been thoughtfully and legally crafted, a family member or other beneficiary may contest it.

How Long Does Probate Take in Irvine, CA?

The California Probate Code states that an executor must file a will within 30 days of an individual’s passing, and if they fail to do so, they may accidentally waive their rights as executor. In the case of a small estate, an executor must wait until 40 days have passed from the date of the decedent’s death to file an affidavit.

Each probate case has unique circumstances, so the time varies according to the details of the case. Creditors have four months to make a claim against the estate; this means the case must stay open for this amount of time at a minimum. Legally, the final distribution must be filed within 12 to 18 months if federal tax returns are necessary, but the timeline increases if the will is contested or any other litigation is considered.

Ultimately, the timeline depends on the specifics of each situation. If the process does not present any unexpected challenges, then the estate can be probated quickly and efficiently. Any contests or disputes, however, can cause delays that are only prolonged without the skills of a seasoned probate attorney.


A dedicated attorney with knowledge of estate law, including elder law, wills and trusts, and probate litigation, will guide you through the process by doing the following:

  • Determining if the deceased passed away with a valid last will and testament
  • Investigating any life insurance policies
  • Property appraisal
  • Identifying and distributing assets
  • Paying off bills and debts associated with the deceased
  • Investigating and paying off any estate or inheritance taxes
  • Identifying any income tax discrepancies and resolving them as necessary
  • Managing any checking accounts under the decedent’s name
  • Preparing and filing required documents with the probate court
  • Transferring assets in accordance with the decedent’s will to the appropriate parties, such as children, heirs, and other beneficiaries


The cost of probate in California depends on the efficiency of your attorney and the specific details of your case. A simple estate with no disputes or complications can still require court fees of five to ten percent of the estate’s value.

When a will is contested, or any other issues arise with family members, heirs, or beneficiaries, these costs can increase exponentially. An attorney with extensive experience in estate law can minimize not only the amount of time but also the associated costs that accompany a complicated probate case.

Additional fees at the beginning of the probate process are as follows:

  • A $350 fee to file for probate
  • $350 to $500 to publish a notice of death in the local newspaper
  • $200 to $350 for any additional petitions and objections filed with the probate court
  • Any costs associated with a probate bond, if ordered by the court
  • Any costs associated with the appraisal of the estate’s non-monetary assets

Probate fees do not include unpaid mortgages in the name of the deceased, as this is considered a secure creditor. However, any unsecured creditors owed money by the deceased must be paid as long as they assert valid claims within the legal deadlines. These claims can include unpaid bills such as credit cards, utilities, taxes, and the like. Other costs to consider are for the decedent’s funeral and any unpaid medical expenses accrued prior to their passing.


Legal fees, including costs for a probate lawyer, fall under the decedent’s estate, as do any court filing fees and executor’s fees. These administrative expenses are known as statutory fees. An estate that has additional complications due to the type of assets or because of ongoing litigation may be entitled to further fees based on the time required to complete additional work or the necessity of outside experts.

All attorneys’ fees and executors’ fees are paid after the probate court processes are concluded and after the court has issued its approval. In California, the value of the estate determines the amount eventually paid to the probate attorney. The attorney is entitled to receive a percentage from the estate in accordance with the following:      

  • 4% of the first $100,000
  • 3% of the next $100,000
  • 2% of the next $800,000
  • 1% of the next $9 million
  • 5% of the next $15 million

Under California law, probate attorneys are not allowed to charge whatever they like; they must follow the guidelines using the legal statutory formula based on the gross value of the estate. For estates valued at above $25 million, the court will determine a reasonable fee.

However, if the deceased individual had unpaid taxes, utility bills, credit card bills, or other expenses, then these creditors are due payment. Additionally, any funeral costs or final medical bills also fall under these required payments.


A probate attorney assists what is known as the personal representative. This individual is responsible for representing the estate throughout the probate process, and this person is usually an heir, such as one of the decedent’s children or another individual that the deceased named executor or trustee of the estate itself.

Although the probate process appears simple on paper, with regard to large estates or in situations when disputes arise, it is imperative to have a dedicated attorney to represent the person responsible for the execution of the estate. The executor is responsible for the following tasks:

  • File a petition with the court in the county where the person lived to open probate.
  • File the decedent’s last will and testament.
  • Ask the court to officially approve your executor’s role.
  • Determine and inform any other heirs and beneficiaries.
  • Secure and inventory all assets for the court.
  • Pay any outstanding claims, bills, and taxes.
  • File any remaining taxes.
  • Make a request to close the estate.
  • After closing, the executor may distribute the remaining assets to named beneficiaries.


The responsibility of executing an estate is an important one, and the Law Office of Christopher P. Walker has helped many beneficiaries and personal representatives navigate the legalities of large estates, complicated processes, and disputes among children, family members, and other parties.

It is important to us that your burdens are eased, especially after the passing of a loved one, and that any emotional or financial conflicts do not interfere with the handling of the deceased’s assets. If you are tasked with executing an estate and want to know more about the process, contact the Law Office of Christopher P. Walker in Irvine, California, for a consultation.

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