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TUSTIN PROBATE ATTORNEY | ESTATE PLANNING LAWYER

After the death of a loved one, the prospect of dealing with California’s probate court system can be stressful. The state’s probate laws are complex, and the ensuing process can be expensive and time-consuming.

However, probate is necessary to distribute an estate, especially if the deceased individual never created a living trust. If they have only created a will, or if no estate planning document was ever drafted, any beneficiaries will be faced with probate court. Probate court will determine how the decedent’s property will be transferred to their heirs or beneficiaries.

Before embarking on the journey through the probate process, it is essential to ensure that you have the support of a qualified Tustin probate attorney. The Law Office of Christopher P. Walker offers expert probate and elder law services to help Orange County area residents navigate probate court with ease.

WHAT IS PROBATE?

After an individual passes away, their heirs are often faced with the prospect of navigating probate court. The purpose of California probate court is to validate any existing will documents, locate the named executor, pay any remaining debts, identify beneficiaries, and transfer the decedent’s assets according to the will. Before the distribution of property can be finalized, the executor’s actions must be approved by California probate court.

The probate process can vary depending on the complexity of the assets and the level of estate planning accomplished by the decedent before their death. For example, if the individual created a living trust to distribute their assets, their beneficiaries may be able to avoid probate court. Alternatively, if the decedent has only created a will, probate is a necessary step. In particular, if the decedent did not create any sort of estate planning documents, probate court is charged with overseeing the entire process.

WHAT DOES A TUSTIN, CA PROBATE LAWYER DO?

A probate attorney assists their clients with the probate process necessary to distribute the estate of a deceased individual. This could involve a variety of different services, including:

  • Preparing the required pleadings and documents, then ensuring that these materials are correctly filed with California probate court.
  • Preparing the final account and petition so that it can be distributed and the estate can be closed.
  • Attending hearings throughout the probate process.
  • Representing executors or beneficiaries during probate litigation.
  • Assisting the executor with identifying assets, locating beneficiaries, distributing assets, and paying debts.

WHERE DOES SOMEONE’S PROPERTY GO IF THEY DON’T HAVE A WILL?

As mentioned, if there are no estate planning documents, probate court is the only way to determine and finalize the transfer of assets. This process will occur according to California intestacy laws, which state that the court must determine an administrator. Probate court and the administrator must oversee the payment of any existing debts using the funds of the estate.

Any remaining decisions regarding asset distribution are left to the court. Generally, property will be transferred to the deceased’s closest relatives, beginning with their spouse and/or children. The court moves to parents, grandchildren, and other relatives if none exist. If no living relatives can be found, the state of California receives any remaining assets.

WHAT IS THE JOB OF A WILL’S EXECUTOR?

The individual in charge of handling and distributing the deceased’s estate is known as the executor. Typically, the executor will be determined during the estate planning process prior to the individual’s death. This person will then be noted within the decedent’s will. If the will fails to mention an executor or if no will exists, a court-appointed administrator will be responsible for handling the estate instead.

Primary duties of the executor or administrator include:

  • Serving as a fiduciary to act on behalf of the estate’s best interest, following every requirement stated in the terms of the will document.
  • Refraining from taking advantage of their position as executor or administrator for personal profit.
  • Keeping any estate funds in a separate bank account.
  • Reporting accounting to the probate court on a regular basis.
  • Listing, documenting, and collecting all the deceased person’s assets.

If you’re interested in learning more about the specific duties of a will’s executor or administrator, consider reaching out to our Tustin estate planning attorneys.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WILL AND A TRUST?

Although wills and living trusts are both frequently utilized estate planning tools, they are not interchangeable. Both wills and trusts are used to determine who receives the decedent’s assets. However, for a will to become active, its creator must pass away. Only at this point will their property be transferred to beneficiaries. Conversely, a trust can be activated as soon as it is created. If the grantor wants any of their assets to be distributed before their death, this is made possible with a living trust.

A will can be revoked or altered at any point before the individual’s passing. Although this is also the case for living, or revocable, trusts, other trusts are irrevocable, and this means that the trust cannot be modified or revoked by the grantor after it has been created.

Finally, when someone creates a will but not a trust, the entirety of the estate must proceed through probate court. However, one advantage of creating a trust is that it can help beneficiariesavoid the probate process when it’s time to transfer the assets named in the trust. A trust may also help beneficiaries avoid estate or inheritance taxes.

DO I NEED A PROBATE LAWYER IN CALIFORNIA?

Probate is a complex process for anyone dealing with the grief caused by a loved one’s death. However, the issue can be compounded if you lack experience with court proceedings, especially probate court. If you’ve been named as an executor, you may be doubly uncertain how to proceed.

Legally speaking, neither beneficiaries nor executors are required to hire a probate lawyer. However, failing to work with an experienced probate attorney can be a disastrous decision, leading to a longer, more expensive, and more stressful probate experience.

Under California law, an estate must proceed through probate according to a series of essential steps. A Tustin probate lawyer can help ensure each of these steps are completed correctly and in a timely manner. From the beginning, your Orange County probate lawyer will help you determine whether probate is necessary, validate any will documents, ensure debts and taxes are paid in full, identify beneficiaries, distribute assets, and close the estate.

Tustin Probate Lawyer

IS PROBATE ALWAYS NECESSARY IN CALIFORNIA?

In some instances, probate is not a necessary part of the estate transfer process. As mentioned, by consulting with an experienced probate lawyer, you will be able to determine which path to take after a loved one’s death. If the estate’s total value is low enough—under $166,250—probate court is likely to be unnecessary. In addition, if the decedent created a living trust for the bulk of the estate’s assets, the estate may be able to avoid probate.

If the deceased individual’s assets are jointly owned with another person, probate might be avoidable in favor of direct distribution. Similarly, if the deceased owns survivorship community property with their spouse, probate court may be unnecessary. When property is to be inherited by a surviving spouse, these assets can be transferred using a streamlined process rather than traditional probate. This procedure can be enacted with a Spousal Property Petition or Domestic Partner Property Petition. Although the California probate court will have some involvement, these proceedings are often quick and simple, unlike the complex process normally associated with probating an estate.

How Much Does an Estate Planning Attorney Cost for Probate?

Before you hire a probate or estate planning lawyer, be sure to discuss payment so you have a clearer idea of what to expect. Depending on the attorney you choose and the complexity of the estate, the amount you pay for probate services can vary. In California, many probate lawyers prefer to charge on an hourly basis. In this area, expect to pay somewhere between $300 to $400 per hour—if you’re dealing with highly complex assets, these fees could surpass $400/hour.

Other Tustin probate lawyers choose to charge a fixed legal fee. This is more common when you are facing a routine probate process rather than probate dictated by complex or extensive assets. It is important to note that fixed fees may only include specific services, so make sure you understand exactly what you’ll be receiving for the cost.

Expert Tustin Probate Attorney | Advanced Estate Planning in Orange County

Without the support and knowledge of an attorney, probate can be a complicated process to navigate. Probate is notorious for being a lengthy, expensive procedure, especially when the estate consists of many complex assets. However, if you’ve recently lost a loved one or have been named an executor of an estate, you must experience probate court to distribute the decedent’s assets and close the estate. Working with an experienced probate lawyer makes it possible to simplify the standard probate process.

Attorney Christopher P. Walker is a compassionate, experienced Tustin probate lawyer dedicated to helping Orange County residents proceed through the often-complex probate system with ease. To learn more, schedule a consultation by completing our online form.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WILL AND A TRUST?

Although wills and living trusts are both frequently utilized estate planning tools, they are not interchangeable. Both wills and trusts are used to determine who receives the decedent’s assets. However, for a will to become active, its creator must pass away. Only at this point will their property be transferred to beneficiaries. Conversely, a trust can be activated as soon as it is created. If the grantor wants any of their assets to be distributed before their death, this is made possible with a living trust.

A will can be revoked or altered at any point before the individual’s passing. Although this is also the case for living, or revocable, trusts, other trusts are irrevocable, and this means that the trust cannot be modified or revoked by the grantor after it has been created.

Finally, when someone creates a will but not a trust, the entirety of the estate must proceed through probate court. However, one advantage of creating a trust is that it can help beneficiariesavoid the probate process when it’s time to transfer the assets named in the trust. A trust may also help beneficiaries avoid estate or inheritance taxes.

DO I NEED A PROBATE LAWYER IN CALIFORNIA?

Probate is a complex process for anyone dealing with the grief caused by a loved one’s death. However, the issue can be compounded if you lack experience with court proceedings, especially probate court. If you’ve been named as an executor, you may be doubly uncertain how to proceed.

Legally speaking, neither beneficiaries nor executors are required to hire a probate lawyer. However, failing to work with an experienced probate attorney can be a disastrous decision, leading to a longer, more expensive, and more stressful probate experience.

Under California law, an estate must proceed through probate according to a series of essential steps. A Tustin probate lawyer can help ensure each of these steps are completed correctly and in a timely manner. From the beginning, your Orange County probate lawyer will help you determine whether probate is necessary, validate any will documents, ensure debts and taxes are paid in full, identify beneficiaries, distribute assets, and close the estate.

IS PROBATE ALWAYS NECESSARY IN CALIFORNIA?

In some instances, probate is not a necessary part of the estate transfer process. As mentioned, by consulting with an experienced probate lawyer, you will be able to determine which path to take after a loved one’s death. If the estate’s total value is low enough—under $166,250—probate court is likely to be unnecessary. In addition, if the decedent created a living trust for the bulk of the estate’s assets, the estate may be able to avoid probate.

If the deceased individual’s assets are jointly owned with another person, probate might be avoidable in favor of direct distribution. Similarly, if the deceased owns survivorship community property with their spouse, probate court may be unnecessary. When property is to be inherited by a surviving spouse, these assets can be transferred using a streamlined process rather than traditional probate. This procedure can be enacted with a Spousal Property Petition or Domestic Partner Property Petition. Although the California probate court will have some involvement, these proceedings are often quick and simple, unlike the complex process normally associated with probating an estate.

How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost?

Before you hire a probate or estate planning lawyer, be sure to discuss payment so you have a clearer idea of what to expect. Depending on the attorney you choose and the complexity of the estate, the amount you pay for probate services can vary. In California, many probate lawyers prefer to charge on an hourly basis. In this area, expect to pay somewhere between $300 to $400 per hour—if you’re dealing with highly complex assets, these fees could surpass $400/hour.

Other Tustin probate lawyers choose to charge a fixed legal fee. This is more common when you are facing a routine probate process rather than probate dictated by complex or extensive assets. It is important to note that fixed fees may only include specific services, so make sure you understand exactly what you’ll be receiving for the cost.

Expert Tustin Probate Attorney | Advanced Estate Planning in Orange County

Without the support and knowledge of an attorney, probate can be a complicated process to navigate. Probate is notorious for being a lengthy, expensive procedure, especially when the estate consists of many complex assets. However, if you’ve recently lost a loved one or have been named an executor of an estate, you must experience probate court to distribute the decedent’s assets and close the estate. Working with an experienced probate lawyer makes it possible to simplify the standard probate process.

Attorney Christopher P. Walker is a compassionate, experienced Tustin probate lawyer dedicated to helping Orange County residents proceed through the often-complex probate system with ease. To learn more, schedule a consultation by completing our online form.

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